1. Agriculture World

Moths are Important Pollinators in Himalayan Ecology, New Study finds

The findings of the study were recently published in Scientific Reports, a journal published by the Nature group of journals, in a paper titled "Settling moths are the vital component of pollination in Himalayan ecosystem of NorthEast India, pollen transfer network approach revealed."

Shivam Dwivedi
Moth Pollination
Moth Pollination

According to a recent study, moths are essential for pollination in the Himalayan ecosystem of northeast India. The study identifies 91 moth species as potential pollinators of 21 plant families in the northeastern Himalayan states of Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh.

Findings of Study

The findings are significant because the majority of pollination-related research has focused on diurnal pollinators (bees and butterflies), while the role of nocturnal pollinators has received less scientific attention.

The findings of the study were recently published in Scientific Reports, a journal published by the Nature group of journals, in a paper titled "Settling moths are the vital component of pollination in the Himalayan ecosystem of NorthEast India, pollen transfer network approach revealed."

"In the current study, approximately 65 percent of moths (91 species) carried enough pollen grains to be considered potential pollinators. Teliphasa sp. (Crambidae) and Cuculia sp. (Noctuidae) were found to carry the most pollen," according to the paper.

According to Navneet Singh, the study's lead author, Geometridae (geometer moths) and Erebidae (erebid moths, tiger moths, and lichen moths, among others) are the most important moth families for pollen transportation in the Himalayan region.

"We also discovered that moths frequently interact with Betulaceae, Fabaceae, Rosaceae, and Ericaceae." Though the Betulaceae is primarily a wind-pollinated plant family, recent research indicates that wind-pollinated plant families benefit from enhanced insect dispersal." Dr. Singh, who works for the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI), added.

Another intriguing finding in the study was the identification of the moth species Achaea janata (a well-known pest of several economically important plants) as a potential pollinator of three plant families, indicating that moths can provide net benefits as pollinators even when acting as larval herbivores of the same species.

According to ZSI scientists, the study is significant because it revealed a high degree of selectivity in moths, which are generally thought to be generalists (that is, not very picky about food plants), and season and altitude affect the role of moths as potential pollinators.

According to Dr. Singh and his co-authors, the study, which was part of a project funded by the Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change, was one of the very few large-scale global studies in which the research team investigated the effect of different seasons and altitudes on the pollination ecology of moths.

The study is based on fieldwork conducted in Himalayan terrains ranging from the foothills to elevations of up to 3,000 metres, as well as laboratory investigations of over 1,800 moth proboscides (mouthparts of moths). Other contributors to the publication include Rajesh Lenka, Pallab Chatterjee, and Dipayan Mitra, in addition to Navneet Singh.

According to Dhriti Banerjee, Director of ZSI, moths are generally regarded as mysterious denizens of the night, and for a long time, they were better known as pest species.

"This research demonstrated the importance of moths in nature." "While we sleep in our bedrooms, they are tirelessly working for the ecosystems to function, on which our survival is invariably dependent, and are contributing significantly to food security," Dr. Banerjee said.

The researchers behind the study emphasize that the interaction between moths and plants discovered through research shows that species interactions are far more complicated than previously thought. According to Dr. Singh, there are approximately 12,000 moth species in India and approximately 160,000 moth species worldwide, and the study can help to better understand the role of nocturnal insect pollinators.

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