Other Pollinators – Moths

Hawk Moth Few people take notice of moths, despite their close relationship with butterflies. Even fewer people intentionally create gardens for them. The muted colors of many species, along with the reputation of a tiny fraction of them as crop or wardrobe pests has done little to endear moths to the average gardener. But the truth is that moths are a beautiful and interesting wildlife group that anyone can attract to a garden.

Though your moth gardening aspirations might be modest, with more than 11,000 moth species in North America, you are assured of infinite opportunities for fascinating observation. Perhaps equally valuable to many gardeners is the fact that moths are important sources of food for countless other animals such as bats, tree frogs, flying squirrels, songbirds, and even small owls.

Feeding Moths

Just as when gardening for butterflies, the moth gardener should consider the life cycle of moths and what they need to thrive. Fortunately, gardening for moths is not that dissimilar as gardening for butterflies, and they share many of the same needs including food, water, and shelter. One notable exception being that moth caterpillars feed on a somewhat more diverse range of foods than butterflies

Like butterflies, the vast majority of moths feed on a host plant during their caterpillar stage. Rather than limiting themselves to leaves as most butterflies do, some moths also eat seeds or roots, or by boring into woody stems or branches, eat the plant from the inside. It should be noted that fewer than 1 percent of moth species eat fabrics such as wool.

A notable distinction between butterflies and moths in North America is the fact that some moths do not have functional mouths or digestive tracts as adults. These moths, which include the wild silkmoths, do all of their feeding as caterpillars, then emerge later as nonfeeding adults that live for only a few days before they mate and die.

Selecting Plants for Moths

Moth Pollination Common wisdom has it that moths visit night-blooming plants with flowers that are typically white or pale in color such as sacred Datura (Datura wrightii), morning glory (Convolvulus spp.), and common evening primrose (Oenothera biennis). While there is certainly some truth in this, the relationship between moths and plants is far more complex.

For moths that do not feed as adults, it is critical to recognize and protect their larval host plants. All moths that do feed as adults rely on sugar sources for food, primarily flower nectar but also tree sap or rotting fruit in some cases. Those active in daylight readily visit the same wildflowers you might already be planting for a butterfly garden. Like butterflies, nectar-feeding moths usually have tongues, allowing them to reach nectar located deep within showy tubular flowers.

The flower preferences of nocturnal or crepuscular (active at dawn and dusk) moths are less well understood. We know that these species are often extremely important pollinators of night-blooming plants since other pollinators such as bees are generally inactive at night.

Finding Nectar

Nectar for adult moths Adult moths, like butterflies, feed on nectar which they drink through their long tongues, or proboscis, especially adapted for sucking. The proboscis is coiled at rest and extended in feeding. Some moths hover above the flowers they visit while others land An adult moth may take nectar from many types of flowers, which do not need to be native species. However, if you plant native species (or close relatives) these may also supply suitable food for some moths' caterpillars, which are generally much more restricted in the type of leaves they can eat. Use the links on the left to find out more about moth-friendly gardening and caterpillar food- plants.

An adult moth may take nectar from many types of flowers, which do not need to be native species. However, if you plant native species (or close relatives) these may also supply suitable food for some moths' caterpillars, which are generally much more restricted in the type of leaves they can eat. Use the links on the left to find out more about moth-friendly gardening and caterpillar food- plants.

Night-scented plants are particularly good for moths, and actually evolved their night-time perfume to attract moths to pollinate their flowers. They include summer flowering Jasmine, Honeysuckle, Evening Primrose, Sweet Rocket and Night-scented Stock. Tobacco plants, commonly sold as summer bedding plants, can also be good but you need to look for the original species Nicotiana alata, as modern varieties have lost much of heir scent.

Beekeeper Beekeeping Clubs

Joining a beekeeping club or association is a great way to learn more about bees and beekeeping. It is extremely useful to join a local beekeeping group. It is invaluable to meet other experienced beekeepers to exchange ideas and opinions.


Roadside devioid of native plants. Take Action! Help Native Pollinators

Ask the Wisconsin Dept of Transportation to replace the planting of non-native grasses with pollinator-friendly native plants along Wisconsin roadways. Provide a corridor for Bees, Butterflies and Birds to move through the State and restore the natural beauty of our roadways.