Published in The Sydney Morning Herald on July 11, 2016
If you leave the lights on, the moths will come. And that’s what happened during the final of Euro 16, when the insects flocked to Paris’ Stade de France during the final between Portugal and France.
The creatures swarmed in the air over the pitch, with one brazen moth landing on Cristiano Ronaldo’s eyelashes when he went down with an injury in the first half. ‘Cristiano’s Moth’ now has its own Twitter account, with more than 4,000 followers.
Reports suggested that floodlights at the stadium had been left on overnight. Andrew Mitchell, a research scientist of entomology at the Australian Museum, said that would explain the phenomenon.
“If the lights were left on, it’s fairly likely that something like this would happen,” said Mitchell. “It’s fairly predictible.”
Mitchell said that sometimes environmental conditions are prime for such an event to occur.
“With the right environmental conditions, if they’ve had good rains in Paris and the numbers of local moths just happen to be particularly high, it wouldn’t be uncommon.”
Clouds of large black moths covered the pitch, equipment, and harassed players and spectators.
Referee Mark Clattenburg was seen swatting them away from his face when he tested the goal-line technology equipment before the game.
France coach Didier Deschamps could also be seen flapping them away, and only stayed on field briefly with his team before kick-off.
Stadium staff, armed with vacuums and brooms, gathered up the moths in the technical areas in front of the dugouts.