What do moths do for our environment?



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    There are many species of moth all over the world, that sometimes fill different ecological niches. Three of the most important are herbivore, pollinator, and food for predators. Some are considered pests because their larva (caterpillars) eat desired crops, or even clothing! But this is part of their role in any ecosytem: controlling the plant population and forcing plants to adapt to their feeding. Some caterpillars are even carnivorous, so they similarly affect small animal species. Humans even use moth larva sometimes as a biological control, introducing them to an area with an invasive plant species so that they will eat it. Of course, biological control isn’t always the best idea, because it involves introducing another invasive species, but it sometimes works.

    Some plants actually owe their existence to moths, since moths pollinate a lot of plant species, often ones that open at night. They visit flowers for nectar, since consuming it can extend their short adult life, and pick up pollen from the male organs of the flower that is then deposted on the female organs of the next flower they find. In this way, both the moth and the plant keep each other alive. Other night pollinators include certain types of bats, and a recently discovered species of cricket.

    Bats, ironically, are also one of the main predators of moths. Certain birds, frogs, and other animals use moths as a big part of their diet, so a loss of moths would cause a reduction in those groups as well.

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