Lightning bug

Why is it that when insects hit your windshield, they seem to hit right where you are looking? Who are these insects, and why are they out flying around?

The answer to the first question is coincidence. The answers to the other questions are a bit more involved.

Most insects hit your windshield at night, when many are active under the cover of darkness. They fly around in search of food or mates or both. Moths, lightning bugs and mosquitoes are among the insects that make your windshield their final landing place.

Female moths release a smell, which attracts males. The males can’t resist this scent that hangs in the air or is carried by the wind. As they follow the perfumed path to the females, they may meet your windshield in the process. Moths also navigate by the stars, and artificial lights can attract them. They may also be attracted to headlights, which can result in messy windshields.

Mosquitoes use the night to search for food, preferably a warm body and not a warm car. But they frequently encounter windshields nonetheless.

When an insect splats your windshield, it was just following its instincts. The collisions are indications of the busy insect night life that usually escapes our notice.

Summer’s Favorite Bug 

  • The lightning bug is nocturnal and crepuscular (active at dawn and dusk). When the winged adults fly, the bioluminescent tips of their abdomens wink on and off.
  • The larvae are voracious predators with jaws equipped with toxin to help them overpower snails, slugs, earthworms, and other prey. Adults eat a variety of foods, depending on the species.
  • Many scientists use luciferase (the bioluminescent enzyme) in gene research, as a way to observe biological processes, and in forensic research.
  • The larvae help control populations of the various invertebrates they prey on; the adults are rarely preyed upon, as they contain chemicals that make them distasteful to predators.

For more on lightning bugs, visit the MDC’s Field Guide.

You never know when you might encounter one of Missouri’s beautiful butterflies or moths–maybe on your car! Discover more about these insects in the video below.