Why Moths?

Why Moths Matter Part 1

Part one in why moths are important and what they do for us.
Caterpillars are herds of mini grazers turning vegetation into nutrients and building soils
Caterpillars are herds of mini grazers turning vegetation into nutrients and building soils
The critical role that moths play in the wider nature of North Antrim may not be immediately obvious. Having tackled the misconceptions that exist around moths, lets take a look at their importance to the world around us.

1. Moths as Ecological Engineers -

As hungry caterpillars our moths act as a herd of mini grazers, feeding on vegetation, alive and dead, recycling nutrients and helping to build healthy soils whilst maintaining diversity in habitats.

If the grazing pressure of caterpillars gets to great many plants have developed defences, such as producing toxins making themselves less palatable. In a properly functioning ecosystem these balances allow for a co-existence of species.

2. Feeding Hungry Mouths -

Caterpillars form a major component in diet of many of our birds, and this is especially important development of the young. It is estimated that the chicks of Blue Tits in Britain and Ireland eat 50 billion caterpillars a year! Many birds coordinate their egg laying to coincide hatching with the greatest abundance of caterpillars.

It is not just chicks that rely on moths, two-thirds of an adult Cuckoo’s diet may be made up the large hairy caterpillars of the Fox and Northern Eggar moths. In addition a wide range of small mammals, amphibians and reptiles prey on moth larvae.

Even when, against the odds, a moth reaches adulthood, it’s place in the food chain is not diminished. Moths make up a substantial element of the diet of the bats they share the nocturnal world with.

Bats and moths co-evolved and have been in an arms race for survival. Moths have developed methods of interfering with the echo-location of the bats, whilst bats have changed frequencies and amplitudes to maintain an advantage.

Blue Tit

Moths are literally fuelling a whole network of life around them, including many of our favourite garden birds.