What would happen without pollinators? The humble moth is an unsung pollinating hero!

When people think of pollinators they normally think of bees. That’s because we enjoy seeing them in the daytime pollinating plants. But bees are under stress from insecticides and industrial farming. The numbers are falling. Without the pollination of bees all the plants that they pollinate would be lost. The BBC says that a world without bees could struggle to sustain the global human population of 7 billion (and climbing rapidly) because without those plants the beginning of the food chain would be lost. It would substantially affect the survival of herbivores.

Moths are important pollinators
Moths are important pollinators. Image: MikeB

So, bees are vital to human survival. It isn’t as straightforward as that as the moth should be as highly valued as bees because they play a larger role in pollinating plants than was originally thought according to the results of a new study published in the journal Ecology Letters.

The scientists collected pollinating insects on sunny summer days and during calm warm nights on eight allotments in the Leeds area of the United Kingdom.

They recorded the insect species and identified the pollen that was stuck to them. In this way they could find out which plants were being pollinated by which species of pollinator.

They found that 20% of the plants from which pollen was found were only visited by moths. And the most common pollen on the moths’ bodies was from the plant buddleia. It was suggested that certain plants rely on moth pollination. They depend upon moths to reproduce.

These plants are unlikely to be pollinated by bees. The moth populations of the UK are dropping. And people don’t generally appreciate the service that moths provide for human survival. That’s because it all happens at night when people aren’t watching.

The Times reports that there needs to be a “much more focused effort to raise awareness of the important role that moths play in establishing healthy environments, especially because we know moth populations have drastically declined over the past 50 years.”

Some species of moth have disappeared entirely from the UK such as the Brighton wainscot and the orange upper wing.

In all, moths appeared to be responsible for about 33% of all the stops made by pollinators at flowers.

Death’s-head hawkmoths fly over the Alps

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Post Category: Insects > bees