There's more to moths than meets the eye

The raffles emerald moth (Tanaorhinus rafflesii) is named after the founder of Singapore, Sir Stamford Raffles, who was also a keen naturalist. The atlas moth (Attacus atlas) is one of the largest moth species in the world. It can be found in gardens
The atlas moth (Attacus atlas) is one of the largest moth species in the world. It can be found in gardens and parks in Singapore. Males have showy, feathery antennae to detect pheromones released by females.PHOTO: LEONG TZI MING
The raffles emerald moth (Tanaorhinus rafflesii) is named after the founder of Singapore, Sir Stamford Raffles, who was also a keen naturalist. The atlas moth (Attacus atlas) is one of the largest moth species in the world. It can be found in gardens
At rest, the yoga moth (Sacada species) appears to be assuming a yoga pose.PHOTO: LEONG TZI MING
The raffles emerald moth (Tanaorhinus rafflesii) is named after the founder of Singapore, Sir Stamford Raffles, who was also a keen naturalist. The atlas moth (Attacus atlas) is one of the largest moth species in the world. It can be found in gardens
The wings of the hieroglyphic moth (Baorisa hieroglyphica) are adorned with immaculate hieroglyphic patterns.PHOTO: LEONG TZI MING
The raffles emerald moth (Tanaorhinus rafflesii) is named after the founder of Singapore, Sir Stamford Raffles, who was also a keen naturalist. The atlas moth (Attacus atlas) is one of the largest moth species in the world. It can be found in gardens
The raffles emerald moth (Tanaorhinus rafflesii) is named after the founder of Singapore, Sir Stamford Raffles, who was also a keen naturalist.PHOTO: LEONG TZI MING
The raffles emerald moth (Tanaorhinus rafflesii) is named after the founder of Singapore, Sir Stamford Raffles, who was also a keen naturalist. The atlas moth (Attacus atlas) is one of the largest moth species in the world. It can be found in gardens
The singapura moth (Calyptronotum singapura) can be found in forested habitats of the Central Nature Reserve in the heart of Singapore. PHOTO: LEONG TZI MING

New book highlights diversity and ecological role of moths

Moths, the winged creatures of the night, are often associated with death.

A death's-head hawkmoth, for example, features prominently on the poster of the horror film The Silence Of The Lambs. Some people believe that moths are the spirits of recently departed relatives.

A group of naturalists from Singapore hopes to change the moth's inauspicious reputation - through a book which highlights the diversity of moths, and their role in keeping ecosystems alive and thriving.

"Moths have long been overshadowed by butterflies, but not many people know that for every species of butterfly, there are nine species of moths - they are incredibly diverse," said Dr Leong Tzi Ming, a freelance nature guide and one of the five authors of the book.

Moths and butterflies are related and can be hard to tell apart. But butterflies tend to fold their wings over their backs, while moths usually spread them out when at rest.

The raffles emerald moth (Tanaorhinus rafflesii) is named after the founder of Singapore, Sir Stamford Raffles, who was also a keen naturalist. The atlas moth (Attacus atlas) is one of the largest moth species in the world. It can be found in gardens
The psychedelic moth (Sinna species)  sports a retro design and its colours are reminiscent of the swinging 1960s. PHOTO: LEONG TZI MING

Most butterflies, being active in the day, help to pollinate plants by day as they flit from flower to flower in search of nectar, but moths take on the "night shift" gardener role, which is important as some flowers in the forest bloom only at night, said Dr Leong.

Even at other life stages, moths are important too. For example, as a caterpillar, the aptly named carpenter moth burrows into the dead wood that it feeds on, helping to break down logs so nutrients get recycled in the forest ecosystem.

But beyond highlighting the important ecological role of moths, the book - which will be launched this evening at the Singapore Botanic Gardens - also wants to showcase their beauty.

Moths are not all dark and dull, but come in a variety of shapes, colours and sizes. For example, the hieroglyphic moth has colourful, intricate patterns on its wings that look as though they were painted by hand.

PUTTING MOTHS IN THE SPOTLIGHT

Moths have long been overshadowed by butterflies, but not many people know that for every species of butterfly, there are nine species of moths - they are incredibly diverse.

DR LEONG TZI MING, a freelance nature guide and one of the five authors of the new book.

Called Marvellous Moths Of Fraser's Hill, the 258-page book was privately published by its authors. It showcases more than 600 species of moths found in Fraser's Hill and other highland spots in Peninsular Malaysia. It is the fruit of more than a decade of moth- watching in Fraser's Hill.

Some of the moths featured can also be found in Singapore, including the atlas moth, one of the largest moth species in the world.

• The book is priced at $40.66 (after GST). To buy, e-mail Mrs Bee Choo Strange at bcngstrange@gmail.com

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 28, 2017, with the headline 'There's more to moths than meets the eye'. Print Edition | Subscribe