Moths and the environment

Moths play an important role in the ecosystem, as food for native birds and pollinators for plants.

Lepidoptera (moths and butterflies) are the third largest group of insects in New Zealand with over 2000 known species. Most New Zealand moths are found nowhere else in the world (92% endemic).

Their largely nocturnal behaviour means moths are often overlooked, but they make great subjects for environmental monitoring. Their short life-cycle and good mobility mean their distributions often show clear geographic relationships with measurable environmental factors.

Despite the many unique and intriguing moth species in New Zealand, we have only a small number of professional lepidopterists.

We know relatively little about the distribution of moths across New Zealand, moth ecology or the potential impacts of artificial light on moth communities.

What determines which moths are where?

Which moths are where depends on many things, including the environment, climate, what phase the moon is in, and the effects of light.

Environment & climate

Each moth species has specific food and environmental requirements that it needs to survive. Important environmental factors for moths are food-plants, nectar sources temperature, humidity, and wind speed.

We can use the information about the environment where we find moths to better understand the ecology of moths. Once we understand the relationship between the species’ presence and the environment we can start to make predictions about how moths will be affected by climate change.