Streetlights change the role of moths in pollination

Hawkmoth

We tend to give all the credit to bees and butterflies as pollinators. However moths are important pollinators too, nocturnally carting pollen between flowers. Research carried out by PhD student Callum Macgregor has begun to reveal the importance of moths as pollinators, and how street lighting may be compromising this process.

Moths are actually nighttime pollinators of a large range of flowers, including hedgerow favourites such as honeysuckle and bramble. In some parts of the world, they appear to be the second most important contributors to pollination behind bees. However “out of sight, out of mind” – and so their importance is often underappreciated.

Numbers of moths in the UK and abroad are in severe decline, and one possible reason for this is an ongoing increase in light pollution. Callum reviewed the known effects of artificial light upon individual moths and has suggested how these effects might impact upon populations of moths and their ability to act as pollinators, finding that light pollution has the potential to disrupt months’ pollinating behavior. He is now undertaking experimental work to test whether such impacts really exist.

This research provides evidence for policy makers, conservationists and land managers to make decisions on street lighting and protect our night-flying pollinators.

The paper is available to view here.

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