Happy Sunday − and welcome to the best of The Conversation U.S. Here are a few of our recently published stories:

If you’ve ever sat by a campfire or on your front porch after dark, you’ve likely seen moths and other insects erratically circle the source of light. I’ve often wondered what draws them in – imagining something akin to getting caught in a spaceship’s “tractor beam.” Other less sci-fi-oriented explanations for this hypnotic behavior include that insects are simply drawn to the heat or are trying to perform celestial navigation, mistaking the light for the Moon.

But the actual reason is even more surprising, as senior environment and cities editor Jennifer Weeks learned after spotting a journal article on the topic. A team of researchers from the U.K. and the U.S. used high-speed cameras to record insects flying around several light sources in labs and outdoors to determine precise flight paths and body postures. Normally, insects point their backs toward the night sky – which is lighter than the ground – to orient themselves as they fly; the researchers found that artificial light at night alters insects' flight paths, cuing them to orbit the light source.

“Although insects circling around a light are a fascinating spectacle, it is certainly better for the insects and the benefits they provide to humans when we leave the night unlit and let them go about the activities they so masterfully perform under the night sky,” they write in one of last week’s most popular stories.

Bryan Keogh

Managing Editor

Readers' picks

A multiple-exposure photograph of insects circling a light at night. Samuel Fabian

The surprising reason why insects circle lights at night: They lose track of the sky

Samuel Fabian, Imperial College London; Jamie Theobald, Florida International University; Yash Sondhi, University of Florida

A new study shows how artificial light at night scrambles insects’ normal flight patterns, pulling them off course into orbit around the light.

Editors' picks

Travis Kelce celebrates with Taylor Swift on Jan. 28, 2024, after the Kansas City Chiefs defeated the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC championship game. Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Why Taylor Swift is an antihero to the GOP − but Democrats should know all too well that her endorsement won’t mean it’s all over now

Matt Harris, Park University

The idea that the Swift-Kelce romance is some sort of deep-state plot is perhaps gaining traction in far-right circles because it lines up with the political right’s broader agenda and beliefs.

News Quiz 🧠

  • The Conversation U.S. weekly news quiz

    Fritz Holznagel, The Conversation

    Test your knowledge with a weekly quiz drawn from some of our favorite stories. This week, questions on the drone attacks, dogs, drugs and Danish royalty

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