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How bugs played a role in creating daylight saving time

APTOPIX Daylight Savings Time Ends
Posted at 6:06 AM, Mar 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-10 07:23:10-05

Daylight saving time (DST) has generated plenty of confusion and debate for decades. But did you know what set the mandate in motion was something as simple as hunting bugs?

Many credit the original idea of DST to Benjamin Franklin, who posed the question in a letter to the editor of the Journal of Paris in 1784. But it didn't become considered as a law in any country until more than a century later.

In 1895, a British entomologist named George Hudson, wanted more time in the sun to search for insects he was studying in New Zealand. That's when the modern concept of daylight saving time was born. Hudson proposed a two-hour time shift in the summer. Although New Zealand rejected Hudson's proposal, that's when the idea started to spread.

When World War I broke out, it drained many countries of their energy sources. Two years into fighting, the German government started looking for ways to save on coal. At that point, Hudson's idea had already been proposed and rejected again in England by another man, William Willett. But the Germans decided to utilize it in 1916 and became the first country to pass a daylight saving time mandate. Soon after, it caught on in other countries fighting in WWI.

By 1918, the United States started observing DST. However, it floated out of law after that and wasn't enacted again until WWII. The legislation then followed the same pattern as before. But by then-- states, cities, and towns became accustomed to the standard and were allowed to start and stop DST whenever they pleased. The issue was DST could be observed in one city, but not in the next one over. It became a hassle for transportation systems, and in 1966 the Uniform Time Act was adopted.

The measure established DST nationwide but allowed states to opt-out of it as long as it was the entire state. Arizona and Hawaii have been the only two states to take advantage of that. But now, for several reasons, Congress is considering new legislation that would do away with switching the clocks twice a year.

Daylight saving time no longer conserves resources the way it once did, and studies have linked it to several health concerns. Many Americans lose sleep when the clocks spring forward, and some people never catch up until the clocks shift back for winter. The lack of sleep can lead to heart problems and even contribute to heart attacks. Spikes in car crashes have also been linked to DST. Many people are less alert as they adjust to a new sleeping schedule.

The legislation under consideration in Congress would make daylight saving time the new standard to be observed year-round. That means we would see less daylight in the winter months, but it would hopefully eliminate a lot of controversy around shifting our sleep schedules twice a year.

No matter if you like or dislike daylight saving time, it's safe to say the timeline that started with one man's quest to hunt some bugs, got a little messy.