Butterflies and Moths

There is often confusion as to what makes a specimen a butterfly or a moth. In truth the defining criteria is a little nebulous with no singular defining factor available. There are many pointers though that can indicate which is which and the list below hopefully will help clarify the distinguishing features.

Butterflies are diurnal but most moths are nocturnal.

The antennae of butterflies are clubbed or thickened towards the end whereas most moths have simple or feathery antennae.

Butterfly pupa is formed in an exposed situation whereas many moths form a cocoon.

Many moths have stout hairy bodies but butterflies are more slender.

Butterflies have feeding moth parts but some moths lack these altogether.

Lots of moths are dull coloured but most butterflies have brightly coloured wings.

Butterflies tend to hold their wings together when at rest whereas many moths hold their wings in a roof-like pose

Generally moths have larger scales on their wings than butterflies so as to retain warmth. The smaller scales on the butterfly's wings help with heat absorption.

Most moths have a barbed bristle on the hindwing (frenulum) that engages with a hook on the forewing (jugum) joining both wings in flight. Most butterflies lack these structures.

Many moths have fully developed forelegs whilst some butterflies have reduced forelegs.

REMEMBER - none of the above are holistically defining characteristics as there are always exceptions to each rule.

Links

A - Z Index (Butterflies)

A - Z Index (Moths)

A - Z Index (Micro Moths)

A - Z Index (Larvae)

Butterfly Gallery

Moth Gallery

Micro Moth Gallery

Larvae Gallery

Lepidoptera Life Cycle - A Brief Overview

Lepidoptera Life Cycle - Puss Moth

Lepidoptera Life Cycle - Spurge Hawkmoth