We don’t often think of moths as when we’re considering pollinators – probably because most of them are night-flying so we don’t see them unless they’re in the car headlights. (incidentally, the fact that they fly at night makes them a really important food source for bats too – there are far more calories in a moth than a fly!)

They’re part of the same family (lepidoptera) as butterflies which we see much more but actually 96% of this family are moths; that’s over 2,500 species in the UK alone. And while some are amazing and beautiful, many are camouflaged brown or beige, and others so tiny you’d barely notice them. A few barely even look like moths!

Although moth caterpillars feed mostly on leaves or grasses, the adults are almost exclusively nectar feeders, so are in and out of flowers all the time, making them excellent incidental pollinators. The campion family of flowers, and night-flowering catchfly, are exclusively pollinated by moths – they have evolved specifically in tandem with moths to optimise the process.

Other flower species such as evening primrose, red valarian, and hemp agrimony are also pollinated by other insects, but get a lot of help from moths. Honeysuckle, though delightfully scented in the morning and evening, can only be pollinated by bigger moths, as it has such deep flowers so needs a moth with a long tongue.

In recent years there have been sightings of some quite spectacular migrant moths in the UK – the hummingbird hawk moth which is native to more southerly parts of Europe (and loves lavender and hemp agrimony) and the Silver Y are seen more and more. They are both day-flying species more common further south in England, they range at least as far north as the Midlands.

The orange underwing is a barely noticeable mottled brown – until it flashes its spectacular underwings when it flies. Its caterpillars feed on birch. It’s another day-flying species. The cinnabar moth population took a massive hit a couple of decades ago by the attempted eradication in some areas of ragwort on which its caterpillars feed pretty much exclusively. (The moth’s black wings with their red-spot-and-stripe make it easy to identify, but don’t confuse it with the Six-spot Burnet which is another day-flying species with similar colouring, but more spots instead of the stripe!)

The moths I think are coolest are the Plume moths: I occasionally find them on the walls indoors on summer evenings. At rest they hold their wings out at right angles to their bodies and just look like a capital “T”. It was ages before I realised they were moths. WWhen they fly they unfurl amazing feathery underwings. They’re night-flyers, and just end up indoors when the lights are on and a window open.

Why not take advantage of these warm summer evenings to take a walk and see if you can spot some amazing moths?