Moths less common pollinators?

Over this past summer, I have paid much more attention to the pollinators in my area(eastern Mass). Out of the 31 organisms I found, the most common pollinators were bees specifically the western honey bee. Along with wasps also being very common including 6 of them being dark paper wasps. To my surprise 0 of the 31 images I took were of moths. I understand that moths may not be the most common pollinators, however I found it strange that I did not find one moth while trying to identify the common pollinators.

Is there anything more to this or am I overthinking that it was weird I did not identify a single moth in my area through my search.

Just wondering if there were any insights or resources into this and the potential lack of moths as pollinators or specifically in some areas of the world.


A lot of moths do nocturnal pollinating, so you can see some new stuff with a flashlight at night.


Hummingbird moths are known pollinators. You have to see whether these moth species are present around your area. Moths are more active at dusk, If you have ventured out in the mornings or daytime, it may not be around. Many moth species live only for a week as moths. They do not have mouth part, that tube of butterflies, and so they do not feed at all. There may be other species of moth which are pollinators.

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White-lined Sphinx and Police Car Moths are the two I’ve seen actively nectar feeding during day. But I’m not a moth expert.


There are a number of reasons:

  1. 31 observations is too small a sample size to be making such conclusions. If you had maybe like a few hundred observations spanning a larger time period then maybe some things can be inferred.

  2. A large percentage of moths are nocturnal, and most of the time we observe them by setting light traps. This obviously reduces the chances of observing them on flowers at night.

  3. There could be other external factors, eg. weather conditions are not suitable etc, undesirable flowers (the moths will feed on the nectar provided and in doing so performs pollination).


Welcome to the forum.
Moths seem to restrict themselves to certain plants more often than other pollinators, so maybe the plants in your area are not attractive to moths.

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At home, I specifically go out day and night in my garden to capture a wide range of diversity.

Among all my observations, these are the pollinators I’ve seen (USA, France, and Mexico):

1,007 observations of ~125 bee species
516 observations of ~225 moth species (including caterpillars, sorry)
183 observations of 54 butterfly species (including caterpillars, sorry)
133 observations of 27 hover fly species
30 observations of 4 hummingbird species

(I’m skipping beetles and wasps and ants, because separating the actively pollinating ones is a bit troublesome)


Check out the book The Forgotten Pollinators (amazon link). Not only are bees, wasps, flies, beetles, ants, butterflies, and moths pollinators but also certain lizards, birds, bats, etc. too.

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And mice

At nights I saw 30+ of these moths on flowers just walking 20 metres, as well as other species, bees are common diurnal pollinators together with flies, but moths are not rare on flowers, at day too, but of course mostly at night.

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i think you might be doing your assignment wrong.

the 20 or 30 other students in your class who have shown up in the Forum seem to be asking their questions in the form of “does the presence (or absence) of organism X have any relationship to some environmental factor Y?”, and that’s not what you’re doing here. i haven’t read what your assignment is though. so i don’t know exactly what your teacher is asking you all to do.

it’s a week or so from the beginning of the school year for you all. so time is running out for completion of the summer project. i must say i’m not looking forward to all your other classmates who will be posting random questions on the Forum over the next week…

that said, if your question is really whether “Moths are less common pollinators” is a valid hypothesis, i think @robotpie’s answer is the best:

also, you should elaborate on “less common pollinators” by specifying some combination “of a specific plant”, “at a specific location”, “at a specific time of year”, “at a specific time of day”, etc…

just to elaborate a little on why the elaboration is important, in my area, Wax Mallow flowers become really abundant during the daytime in late summer, just as hummingbird migration occurs. but when you see how perfectly hummingbirds fit with the flowers, you realize that the timing of the bloom and the migration probably isn’t a coincidence. and then you can start to ask other questions like “what happens if the flowers don’t bloom?” and “what happen if the hummingbirds choose a different route?”


Think in terms of what a moth would be attracted to. They fly at night; so, what color and type of flower would be visible at night? How else might a moth find a flower, if it is too dark too see very far? Then, once you figure out the suitable flowers, you check them during the times when moths are active and compare that with what you saw with, say, butterflies during the daytime.

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Many moths are also tiny. So in addition to coming out at night, they may escape notice because they are too small and fast to see and photograph.


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