Make Your Garden a Haven for Moths

— Written By Scott Zona and last updated by
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Moths are the unsung heroes of plant pollination. On a worldwide scale, there are twice as many species of pollinating moths as there are bees, and there are six times as many pollinating moths as there are pollinating butterfly species.¹ Moths don’t get the respect they deserve for the services they provide plants. Moreover, moth larvae (caterpillars) are important food sources for songbirds, and adult moths are important food for our native bats.

The Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox makes it easy to find moth-friendly plants for your garden. Just type “moth friendly” or “moth caterpillar host” in the search box to see lists of plants that will attract moths.

3 images. Left and right show adult moths on flowers; center image shows caterpillar on leaf.

Left: Atteva aurea. Center: Alypia octomaculata larva. Right: Sunira bicolorago. All images by Scott Zona CC BY-NC 2.0

Not all moths are nocturnal; many pollinating species are day-flying. While some moths, like the hawk moths and hummingbird moths, are large and easy to spot, most moths are small, dull-colored and secretive. Nevertheless, we should encourage moths in our gardens as useful pollinators and as important links in the food web.

¹Ollerton, J. 2021. Pollinators & Pollination: Nature and Society. Pelagic Publishing, Exeter, UK.