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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2022

The role of adult noctuid moths (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae) and their food plants in a nocturnal pollen-transport network on a Mediterranean island

Ribas-Marques, Elisa; Diaz-Calafat, Joan; Boi, Marzia


Noctuidae belong to one of the largest families of night-flying Lepidoptera. However, despite being among the most common nocturnal flower-visitors, they have seldom been included in pollination networks. Similarly, the current knowledge on food plants used by adults is rather scarce. In this article, we build the first moth-plant pollen transfer network in the Balearic archipelago. We aim to increase the knowledge of which plants are used as food resources by adult Noctuidae, assess how specific or generalist nocturnal pollinators and their food plants are and establish the first baseline information on adult Noctuidae-plant interactions on the archipelago and the Mediterranean. 20.7% of the adult Noctuidae in our samplings carried pollen and were therefore potentially involved in nocturnal pollination. The family Ericaceae, and especially Arbutus unedo, was a key food resource for our moth community, with 46% of the total recorded interactions belonging to this plant. Overall, both plants and moths in our system behaved in a generalist way. Niche overlap was larger in moths than in plants, suggesting that the functional role that moth species take in our system is more redundant than that taken by plants. Robustness values suggest that the network functionality would not collapse despite the extinction of a few species. Implications for insect conservation Detecting flower preferences and the role of nocturnal insects on pollination will allow understanding of ecosystem functionality and will be crucial for conservation of both moths and organisms that depend on them.


Moths; Nocturnal pollination; Arbutus unedo; Conservation; Pollen network; Balearic Islands

Published in

Journal of Insect Conservation
2022, Volume: 26, number: 2, pages: 243-255
Publisher: SPRINGER

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