If your house runs in any way like mine, there is likely to be at least one person living in it who is terrified of moths. My 16 yo son is more scared of them than spiders. All 6ft and 70kg of him reduces to 3ft and 20kg of complete meltdown on sight of one.
One night recently while being terrorised by a moth in his room, son yelled out from behind the door where he was hiding, "What do moths even do anyway"? I have to confess as rummaged through my entomology class memory banks, that the extent of knowledge I could muster was up there with calculus maths. No idea. Somewhat embarrassingly, my complete relationship with moths is framed by scrutinising the travels of every one I see with great suspicion, as the little blighters are responsible for way too many holes in my clothes.
It turns out that moths aren't just unfairly branded as being creepy, hairy and generally suspicious; but they do something very important and for which they get little credit.
WHILE THE CHILDREN OF MOTHS MIGHT HELP THEMSELVES TO A FEW SMALL PIECES OF OUR CLOTHES, THEY ALSO HELP FEED A BIG CHUNK OF THE PLANET. MOTHS ARE IN FACT ONE OF THE PLANET'S BIG POLLINATORS.
Most of the focus on food pollination is on bees. But the facts are that bees execute just over a third of all pollination. The rest is done by other insects, birds and animals. Most insects are pollinators by virtue of their everyday behaviour. Flies, beetles, birds, bats, wasps. And moths. When you stop to think about it, most people think of butterflies as pollinators and maybe lady beetles. But never moths. One of the main reasons is that the butterfly's less attractive insect cousin, mostly pollinates at night so no one sees moths at work.
Some moths do work during the day, but most come out from dusk, and along with bats, they run the pollination night shift. Recent studies have shown that moths pollinate many of the same plants as bees and butterflies, with a few of their own in addition.
Moths particularly like pale, dull red & purple, white or pink flowers that are very fragrant. They also favour big nectar producers, with nectar deeply hidden to suit their long proboscis, such as morning glory, tobacco, yucca, and gardenia.
Critically, moths seem to fly further afield than bees, who tend to stick to the areas around their hives. The hipster part of moths is also a great asset as pollen sticks more readily to their hairy bodies.
While moths are agricultural pests, there is clear evidence that moths could - and probably already do, pollinate some agricultural crops.
Bees pollinate just over a third of all the world's crops, but we also need to understand more about the way other insects and animals contribute, especially as all populations are under threat.
According to research published in PANAS, non-bees perform up to 50% of the total number of flower visits. Although non-bees were less effective pollinators than bees per flower visit, they made more visits; thus these two factors compensated for each other, resulting in pollination services rendered by non-bees that were similar to those provided by bees.
Images: Hero Moth - ABC News / Other Moths - Unsplash Tim Goedhart | Raphi See | Tom Elegeert