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Moth’s role as pollinators

Date: 14 May 2020 Tags: Biodiversity


A study says that the moths' transport networks are larger and more complex than those of daytime pollinators like bees. They play a vital role as overnight pollinators of a wide range of flowers and plants.



Over the past decade, public anxiety about the role of our pollinators has focused squarely on bees. The authors believe there is an urgent need to stem declines in moth numbers.



  • The fall-off in their numbers, linked to changes in land and widespread use of pesticides, has helped raise environmental awareness of the critical role these creatures play in the food chain.

  • To find out how vital a part the moths play, researchers monitored moth activity around ponds in agricultural areas.

  • They found that 45% of the moths they tested were transporting pollen, which originated from 47 different plant species, including several that were rarely visited by bees, hoverflies and butterflies.

  • The scientists found that while bumblebees and honeybees are critically important, they tended to target the most prolific nectar and pollen sources. Not so with moths.

  • Previous studies on moths have tended to focus on their ability to transport pollen via their proboscis or nose. This new work looked at the pollen collected on the moths' distinctly hairy bodies when they sit on flowers while feeding.

  • The researchers believe their study shows that moths complement the work of daytime pollinators and help keep plant populations diverse and abundant. They serve as a form of back-up for biodiversity, which in turn supports crop yields.

  • The vital role played by the moths has come under increasing threat as they have suffered steep declines in numbers since the 1970s. This is largely due to changes in land use and the increasing use of pesticides.

  • Helping the moths will require the use of less pesticide and encouraging a wider diversity of plants in the landscape.

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