When we talk about insect pollination, bees and butterflies are often what come to mind first. Butterflies come in a dazzling array of colors and patterns. Bees dance and communicate and make honey. But don’t forget about moths.
Moths are unappreciated and overlooked. Some people are even disgusted by them. Yet they play an essential role in their ecosystems and their presence indicates that ecosystem is healthy. For a little context, moths are closely related to butterflies. They undergo a similar metamorphosis from egg to caterpillar to winged insect. While there are 800 species of butterflies in North America, there are more than 12,000 species of moths. And they too come in a variety of colors and sizes. Sometimes they are so brilliant they are confused with butterflies.
But looks aren’t really what matters. What does matter is that moths are important pollinators (in addition to being an important food source for other animals). In fact, one study revealed that nocturnal moths (and, for the record, not all moths are nocturnal) visit a greater variety of flower species than bees do. Other studies have determined that the role moths play in pollination is just as important as that of bees, if not more important. Not only that, many moth species can cover greater distances than bees, thus transporting pollen further.
As I said, moths are often confused with butterflies. If you want to learn to tell the difference, read this post. Either way, appreciate them equally!