Night Shift Pollinating: the Magic of Moths

Megalograpga moth. Identified by inaturalist.org. Photo by Sarah Barnard.

Nature enthusiasts and scientists alike are well aware that pollination is crucial for environmental well-being. Insects such as bees and butterflies have experienced a well-deserved moment in the spotlight for being the primary sources of pollination for our environment. However, this could be a case of accidental bias on our part. New research has found that multiple species of magnificent yet harshly misunderstood moths are hard at work while we are asleep, picking up the pollination shift where bees, butterflies, and other daytime pollinators left off.

Snout Moth. Identified by inaturalist.org. Photo by Sarah Barnard.

Historically, moths and other nocturnal pollinating insects have not been included in mainstream research. Because of this accidental oversight, we knew very little about the extensive pollination efforts of these mysterious nocturnal creatures. However, new research on nocturnal pollination has allowed us to turn our attention and appreciation towards the moth, a beautiful and diverse insect species that we now know is part of the pollination team. The Royal Society conducted a study in which they swabbed pollen from 883 moths. The scientists found that 381 moths out of their sample contained pollen from more than one plant species on their fuzzy underbellies. These results suggest that moths visit and pollinate multiple plants at night and are highly influential in wild plant pollination. Moths pollinate some of the same plants visited by bees and other daytime pollinators. This new research shows that bees, butterflies, and moths work in a holistic combined effort towards pollination and environmental wellness.

Entomology Moth Drawer by Tradescant & Son depicts tattered and delicate hand drawn moths, some showing their age to create a raw and honest depiction.

Moths tend to pollinate flowers with strong, sweet smells emitted at night. They are especially attracted to flowers that produce ample nectar that is easy to access through long, tubular flowers. They are most attracted to flowers with pale white and dull red colors, hues of pink and purple, and large petals with clusters.

The responsibility of pollinating our planet falls on the shoulders of many species, as well as Earth’s natural elements of wind and water. Protecting our planet’s natural pollinators improves the health of our ecosystem and, in turn, improves our well-being. Pollinators are not only crucial to our environment, but they are also incredibly essential for human life and function. The United States Environmental Protection Agency states, “pollinators provide humans with one in every three bites of food we eat, cotton to make clothing and other items we depend on, and habitats and food for countless other animals.

Moth textile by Kale Tree celebrates the beauty of moths in a 100% linen fabric.

As we learn more about moths and their vital role in the holistic pollination of our planet, we become better equipped to protect them and Earth’s pollination systems as a whole. There are many steps you can take to help protect moths and promote pollinator well-being:

  • While most pollination-protecting efforts can help the wide variety of pollinating species, one hazard unique to pollinating moths is light pollution. Avoid the use of lighting in your garden as artificial lights can disorient moths, impairing their abilities to find mates, protect themselves from predators, and find flowers to pollinate.
  • Plant moth-approved flowers in your garden that bloom in a variety of seasons
  • Plant in “clusters” so that your nighttime pollinating visitors can easily access flowers to pollinate in your garden
  • Eliminate the use of pesticides and herbicides.
Moth Rug by Kale Tree inspired by the neutral, toasty colors of moth’s wings

Kale Tree Studio gathers much inspiration from the natural scenery around us to create our products, and as such, our products are made with a commitment to sustainability and environmental wellness. For example, our moth rug is inspired by the neutral creams and toasted grey hues of a moth’s wing, available in Bamboo Silk or 100% New Zealand Wool. As a studio with a mission to promote health and well-being, Kale Tree cares deeply about protecting all of Earth’s natural pollinators. With newly available research, we can help moths achieve their much-deserved spotlight on the pollination stage, along with their daytime pollinating friends.

Damaged Lace by Tradescant and Son was inspired by the ethereal beauty of pre-loved antique lace combined with the raw honesty of the destruction of lace eating moths.

Resources

CNN Health. “Moths play a vital role in pollinating flowers and plants, new research suggests.”

The Royal Society Publishing. “Nocturnal pollinators strongly contribute to pollen transport of wild flowers in an agricultural landscape.”

U.S. Forest Service. “Pollinator Syndromes.”

Xerces Society. “The Night Shift: Moths As Nocturnal Pollinators.”

United States Environmental Protection Agency. “Protecting Pollinators.”

Pollinator Partnership. “About Pesticides.”

Originally published at https://www.kaletree.com on February 9, 2022.

--

--

--

Sarah Barnard is a WELL and LEED accredited designer and creator of environments that support mental, physical and emotional wellbeing.

Love podcasts or audiobooks? Learn on the go with our new app.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Sarah Barnard Design

Sarah Barnard Design

Sarah Barnard is a WELL and LEED accredited designer and creator of environments that support mental, physical and emotional wellbeing.

More from Medium

LOOKING in the MIRROR what do I SEE.

The Painting.

Oh. This. Is. Bad.