||Advances in LED technology combined with solar, storable energy bring light to places remote from electricity grids. Worldwide more than 1.3 billion of people are living off‐grid, often in developing regions of high insect biodiversity. In developed countries, dark refuges for wildlife are threatened by ornamental garden lights. Solar powered LEDs (SPLEDs) are cheaply available, dim, and often used to illuminate foot paths, but little is known on their effects on ground living (epigeal) arthropods.
We used off‐the‐shelf garden lamps with a single ‘white’ LED (colour temperature 7250 K) to experimentally investigate effects on attraction and nocturnal activity of ground beetles (Carabidae).
We found two disparate and species‐specific effects of SPLEDs. (i) Some nocturnal, phototactic species were not reducing activity under illumination and were strongly attracted to lamps (>20‐fold increase in captures compared to dark controls). Such species aggregate in lit areas and SPLEDs may become ecological traps, while the species is drawn from nearby, unlit assemblages. (ii) Other nocturnal species were reducing mobility and activity under illumination without being attracted to light, which may cause fitness reduction in lit areas.
Both reactions offer mechanistic explanations on how outdoor illumination can change population densities of specific predatory arthropods, which may have cascading effects on epigeal arthropod assemblages. The technology may thus increase the area of artificial light at night (ALAN) impacting insect biodiversity.
Measures are needed to mitigate effects, such as adjustment of light colour temperature and automated switch‐offs.