• Featured: Portugal footballer, Cristano Ronaldo, during the Euro 2016 final. (AAP)Source: AAP
...it wasn't because they're Portugal fans
By
Shami Sivasubramanian

12 Jul 2016 - 2:37 PM  UPDATED 12 Jul 2016 - 3:38 PM

Monday's EURO 2016 final was full of surprises - from France's shock loss, to Portugal's nail-biting overtime win, to the sea of moths that covered the pitch and interfered with the game.

One moth flew into the eye of Portugal's star striker, Cristiano Ronaldo. The photo has already become a viral sensation, and the moth itself quickly gained a Twitter account with over 5,000 followers.

The insects covered the stadium's stands, pitch, and made it tricky for the players to see at times. Organisers even sent people out to sweep them away.

But why were there so many moths on the pitch? There are probably a few reasons.

1. The bright lights

According to Football broadcaster Phillipe Auclair, the moths were attracted to the bright stadium lights, which were left on overnight to help organisers ensure security ahead of the match and promote the game ahead of the Paris grand final.

Moths are famously known to be attracted to bright lights. But the science behind it is still up in the air. According to some entomologists, moths aren't actually attracted to artificial lights; they simply throw off the moth's internal navigation system, which can derail them from pollinating.

2. Stadium Architecture

The finals between France and Portugal were held just north of Paris in Saint-Denis at the iconic stadium, Stade de France.

When open, the Stade's roof forms an inward-facing ring. So when illuminated, most of the light on the periphery of the roof pours inwards, making the area inside the stadium much brighter than the area outside of it.

Given that design, it may have had the effect of luring the moths in and trapping them.

3. Migration patterns

The EURO 2016 finals just happened to coincide with the migration patterns of these moths.

Most of the moths found in the Stade de France on Sunday evening belong to the Silver Y (Autographa gamma), noted by their 'Y' shaped marking.

The Silver Y migrates from North Africa to breed in the UK, via France. This occurs over several generations of moths, who each only live a couple weeks at most.

It is understood these moths take four day to make the trip one-way, travelling at speeds of up to 100 km/h. 

Rothamsted Research found in peak years of migration, nearly a quarter of a billion Silver Y moths would migrate north, and about a billion would fly back south.

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