Do you know your moths from your butterflies?

These themed weeks just seem to be rolling on like no tomorrow! You may have noticed that Nat Geo Wild and the discovery channel are showing shark documentaries all this week... however we found out that shark week does not start until the 4th of August. Basically we will be starting shark week when it is officially shark week, so look out for those posts!!!
But this week is national moth week! an animal that is never usually highlighted so today's post will ask you one question: Do you know your moths from your butterflies? If not, have no fear because by the end of this post you will have a better chance of saying yes to that answer.

Some similarities is always a good place to start:

Both butterflies and moths are members of an order called Lepidoptera, both have scales that cover their bodies and wings, upon closer look at these scales they are modified hairs which they shed often. Of the entire order Lepidoptera butterflies and skippers make up 6-11% whereas the moths make up 89-94%. Interestingly both share very similar life cycles that is that they are both holometabolous, meaning that they undergo a complete metamorphosis from egg to caterpillar and from chrysalis/cocoon to an adult. Though there are similarties between the two there are numerous physical and behavioural differences also.

Pupal Stage:

Moths make cocoons that are wrapped in silk coverings, whereas butterflies form chrysalises, which is made with  hardened protein and lacks silkiness.
This is a butterfly chrysalises.
Picture above shows a typical silk cocoon of the moth.

Physical differences:

Firstly, a butterflies antennae are thin with a club shaped tip, whereas the antennae of the moth are feathery or comb like. Now, on to their wings, in this particular department they are polar opposites butterflies tend to be vibrant with their wing coloration, compare this to a moths wing and you will find they have darker less vibrant colors. A moths wing anatomy is different to that of a butterfly, moths have a structure called a frenulum which joins the fore wing to the hind wing.

Another distinctive feature is that butterflies tend to fold their wings vertically up over their bodies (picture b). Moths tend to hold their wings in a tent like fashion that hides their abdomen (picture a).


The exception to the butterflies only being vibrant rule:

The two pictures above show the Madagascan Sunset Moth, showing their full set of colors in all their glory!! Now these are vibrant!!


Butterflies tend to be diurnal, this means that they are most active during the day. Moths tend to be nocturnal. However their are moths that are diurnal such as the buck moth. And some butterflies are thought to be crepuscular.

The worlds largest known butterfly? the Queen Alexandra Birdwing

Whereas the largest known moth is? The Atlas moth!!

With a wingspan of 12 inches, it was not a hard contest to win at all!

With that we are brought to the end of this post, now although this is a post to help you guys distinguish between moths and butterflies we must inform you that this is not a perfect system. Mainly because the more species that are discovered the line that separates these two insects is just becoming more and more blurry. But below is a question for you guys just to see if you have come of this knowing any more than you did before. Leave the answer in the comment section down below!

Which of these is a moth a or b? 



Over and out.


  1. Dear blogger,
    would it be possible to use your photo, "parts of the butterfly and moth" in a small scale seminar presentation about butterflies. Me and my seminar pair are biology students at the University of Helsinki in Finland.
    Thank you very much if that would be okay!
    Kind Regards,
    Elina Salminen, University of Helsinki, Finland

    1. hi there thankyou very much for getting in contact with me. that image was from the internet to be honest but i am more than happy for you using it.
      Thanks and so sorry for the late reply!


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