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The importance of moths

Although overlooked, moths are numerous and widespread throughout the UK. Over 2500 species are currently residing in the UK in a range of habitats – they play a major part in our biodiversity and play key roles in our ecosystem, affecting many other types of wildlife.

Adult moths and their caterpillars are food for a wide array of wildlife including other insects, spiders, frogs, toads, lizards, shrews, hedgehogs, bats and birds. Night-flying adult moths form a major part of the diet of bats. Many birds eat both adult moths and their caterpillars, but the caterpillars are especially important for feeding the young. Blue Tits, one of Britain’s favourite garden birds, consume in excess of 35 billion a year!

Moth caterpillars have a great impact on plants by eating their leaves, this has led to many types of plant evolving special chemicals to make them less appealing to caterpillars and limit the damage. Moths also benefit plants by pollinating their flowers whilst feeding on nectar and help their seed production. This helps wild plants, but also many of our food crops.

Moths play a key role in telling us about the health of our environment. They are so widespread and found in so many different habitats, so monitoring their numbers can give us vital information about changes in our environment.

by Lee Silson

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