Most people probably regard moths as a nuisance, if they are aware of them at all. There are however a large group of people, known as moth-ers, who are as fanatical about moths as birders are about birds!
Moths, in both the laval and adult stage, play an enormously important role in the ecosystem, from pollinating plants to feeding birds, bats and even people around the globe.
Moths outnumber butterflies, their nearest relative, by more than 10 to 1.
Caterpillars are one of the most important things that moths offer in the ecosystem. They are food for everything else. An estimated 95 percent of nesting birds rear their young on insects, and caterpillars make up a significant part of that.
In some parts of the world, moths are a major food source for people too. More than 90 percent of people in some African countries eat moth and butterfly caterpillars. The mopane worm for instance, the caterpillar of Gonimbrasia belina, is a significant food resource in southern Africa. Caterpillars are packed with protein and healthy fats and research shows that 100 grams of these insects provides more than 100 percent of the daily requirement of some vital minerals, such as potassium, calcium, zinc and iron.
While most moths feed by sucking nectar, others don't eat at all. Some, like the Luna, Polyphemus, Atlas and
Prometheus moths don't even have mouths. After they emerge from their cocoons, the adults live for about a week, as their sole mission in life is to mate and lay eggs.
Moths are important pollinators. Moth-pollinated flowers tend to be fragrant and white, such as the Gardenia plant. Plants with these features allow nocturnal moths to easily find flowers after dark.
There is evidence that ultrasound in the range emitted by bats causes flying moths to make evasive maneuvers because bats eat moths. Ultrasonic frequencies trigger a reflex action in the noctuid moth that cause it to drop a few inches in its flight to evade attack.
Some moths are farmed. The most notable of these is the silkworm, the larva of the domesticated moth Bombyx mori. It is farmed for the silk with which it builds its cocoon.
Moths frequently appear to circle artificial lights, although the reason for this behavior remains unknown. One hypothesis advanced to explain this behavior is that moths use a technique of celestial navigation called transverse orientation. By maintaining a constant angular relationship to a bright celestial light, such as the Moon, they can fly in a straight line. Celestial objects are so far away, that even after travelling great distances, the change in angle between the moth and the light source is negligible. Furthermore, the moon will always be in the upper part of the visual field or on the horizon. When a moth encounters a much closer artificial light and uses it for navigation, the angle changes noticeably after only a short distance, in addition to being often below the horizon. The moth instinctively attempts to correct by turning toward the light, causing airborne moths to come plummeting downwards, and resulting in a spiral flight path that gets closer and closer to the light source.
I participate because I care - CUSTOS NATURAE
Convenor of the AIKONA Group.
No to Hotels in and commercialization of our National Parks.
Done 141 visits to National Parks.
What a wonderful privilege.