Given their muted colors, their unjust reputation as just pests, and their night flying nature, most people fail to take notice of moths. Yet they outnumber butterflies, their nearest relative, by more than 10 to 1. And there are upward of 11,000 moth species in the United States alone — that’s more than all the bird and mammal species in North America combined!
Do you know how to tell butterflies and moths apart?
- In general, butterflies fly in the daytime, while moths fly at night.
- Butterflies are typically larger and have more colorful patterns on their wings. Moths are typically smaller with drab-colored wings.
- Butterflies tend to fold their wings vertically up over their backs. Moths tend to hold their wings in a tent-like fashion that hides the abdomen.
- A butterfly’s antennae are club-shaped with a long shaft and a bulb at the end. A moth’s antennae are feathery or saw-edged.
The importance of moths is right up there with their flashier relative, the butterfly.
- Butterflies and moths are a highly diverse group comprising over 250,000 species and make up around one quarter of all named species.
- Butterflies and moths are indicators of a healthy environment and healthy ecosystems.
- Adult moths and their caterpillars are food for a wide variety of wildlife, including other insects, spiders, frogs, toads, lizards, shrews, skunks, bats, and birds.
Check out these gorgeous creatures!
And remember, avoid using pesticides – they may hurt moths along with other beneficial insects.