Arthropod-Plant Interactions

, Volume 10, Issue 1, pp 21–28 | Cite as

The secret pollinators: an overview of moth pollination with a focus on Europe and North America

  • Melanie HahnEmail author
  • Carsten A. Brühl
Original Paper


Pollination is a crucial plant–animal interaction in ecosystems, and moths (Lepidoptera) are a widespread and species-rich group of flower visitors. In this article, plant and moth species connected via pollination interactions were identified from the literature, and information on the relevance of moth pollination in various ecosystems, including agro-ecosystems, was compiled, particularly for Europe and North America. Overall, 227 moth–flower pollination interactions were found, including certain specialized relationships between plants and pollinating seed predators. Most of the interactions could be attributed to the moth families Noctuidae (90 interactions, 56 species) and Sphingidae (85 interactions, 32 species), and to the plant families Orchidaceae (109 interactions, 22 species) and Caryophyllaceae (59 interactions, 16 species). Limited information is available on the role of moth pollination in natural ecosystems (7 studies). In temperate agro-ecosystems, moths are most likely not essential to crop pollination, but they can contribute to the pollination of non-crop plants, which are crucial to maintaining biodiversity in these ecosystems. In general, the role of moths as pollinators appears to be underestimated because only a few studies on moth pollination are available, and long-term, ecosystem-scale research is necessary to address temporal fluctuations in their abundance and community composition.


Moth Lepidoptera Pollination Nursery pollinator 



This study was supported by a funding program for scientists (NaWi) of the Interdisciplinary Graduate Center (IPZ), University Koblenz-Landau, granted to M. Hahn. The authors thank J. Schmitz and P. Stahlschmidt for their helpful comments on the manuscript.

Supplementary material

11829_2016_9414_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (619 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 618 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for Environmental SciencesUniversity Koblenz-LandauLandauGermany

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