What is a "lamp bug"?

What is a "butterfly of the light"?

In Steinbeck's "The Grapes of Wrath," a "lamp bug" is mentioned. In the Spanish translation ("Las Uvas de la Ira") it is called "Una mariposa de la luz."

Isn't there a more scientific name for it - what is this critter exactly? A moth?

  • "Mariposa de la luz" is actually clearer to me than "lamp bug," which I might interpret instead as meaning "firefly" (lightning bug).
    – wordsmythe
    Commented Jul 17, 2014 at 15:11

1 Answer 1


"Mariposa de la luz" is not a standard spanish phrase, but the language (any language) is short on words to define all kinds of insects, so you need to abide by the meaning, instead of the word-by-word translation.

A "lamp bug" is a bug that is attracted by the light of a lamp. This can only happen during night, since during day that light is not important under the Sun, so Steinbeck is talking about a nightly insect. It is most probably that he is talking about moths, the best known insect that is attracted by human lights on the night. In this case the translation would be "polilla", which is actually the term for nightly butterflies (and also for clothing moths) in spanish.

The translator would have used "polilla" directly if the author would have used "moth", but since Steinbeck taken a detour, so did he.

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