Garden lighting: effects on wildlife

Used sparingly, lights in the garden can enhance its night-time charms, but what about the effects on wildlife?

Frogs seem to be attracted to light. Credit: RHS.

Quick facts

Suitable for Highlighting trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants and providing security lighting
Timing All year round
Difficulty Easy or Moderate

How to effectively use garden lighting

Gardeners often use garden lighting to brighten up their garden at any time of year - from summer parties to winter viewings.

  • Lighting in gardens can illuminate particular features such as a tree or pond, create a welcoming place to sit in the evenings
  • Security lighting is another major use of light in gardens, positioned to catch the movement of visitors or intruders, often down the entrances and sides of houses 
  • Low-voltage, easy-to-install kits can be plugged into a pre-existing mains socket, and usually have smaller light fittings than mains electricity lighting, which is only really necessary for illuminating large gardens or big trees
  • A registered electrician must be used for all mains garden installations

Lighting and wildlife

The potential effects of lighting on wildlife and the environment is often overlooked. Light pollution from inappropriately positioned security lighting is often the worst.

Impact on wildlife

  • Night-flying moths navigate by light sources, such as the moon, and can become disorientated by artificial lights. Bats and owls may also be distracted
  • Bats may sometimes be found feeding on moths that are attracted to artificial lights
  • Security lights may temporarily blind certain animals and may even attract them, as appears to be the case with frogs
  • Garden birds are disturbed from sleep by sudden lighting and can begin singing before dawn
  • Disruption of animals’ breeding cycle is more serious. Garden lighting is thought partly to blame for the decline of glow-worms; these emit low, greenish light to attract mates
  • Solar-powered lights emit a very dim light that is less likely to affect wildlife

Minimising impact

  • Lessen the effects of lighting by positioning and aiming lights responsibly, and turn off when not in use
  • Hoods can also direct the light downwards to reduce light pollution of the night sky
  • Choose low-intensity lighting: solar lighting is cheap, safe and emits a dull glow suitable for garden use

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