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White-lined Sphinx Hummingbird Moth

We love watching butterflies, and moths too!

A moth is an insect related to the butterfly, both being of the order Lepidoptera. There are an estimated 160,000 species of moth, about 10 times the number of species of butterfly.

In general, moths tend to be stockier and have furry bodies, whereas butterflies are smooth and lean. 

Butterflies tend to fold their wings vertically up over their backs, while moths hold their wings in a tent-like fashion hiding the abdomen. Butterflies are typically larger and have more colorful patterns on their wings. Moths are typically smaller with drab-colored wings, but many are colorful.

Moths are not all drab-colored! Here are four large, colorful moths found in North America
Four large, colorful moths found in North America: Luna, Polyphemus, Cecropia and Promethea

 

Butterflies are primarily diurnal, flying in the daytime. Moths are generally nocturnal, flying at night. However, there are moths that are diurnal, such as the buck moth and there are butterflies that are crepuscular, meaning they fly at dawn and dusk. A moth makes a cocoon, which is wrapped in a silk covering. A butterfly makes a chrysalis, which is hard, smooth and has no silk covering.

Nocturnal moths are usually plain brown, grey, white or black and often possess patterns of zigzags or swirls which help camouflage them from predators as they rest during the day. However, many day-flying moths are brightly colorred, particularly if they are toxic.

Additionally, moth wings, unlike butterfly wings, have a structure called a frenulum, which joins the forewing to the hind wing.

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 (see the side-by-side comparison of a butterfly and moth below).

Butterfly (l) and moth (r) side-by-side comparison
Butterfly (left) and moth (right) side-by-side comparison

 

Butterfly or Moth? No single feature distinguishes one from another
Sign at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson, Arizona (Staff Photo)

Butterfly or Moth? Sign at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson, Arizona


Our Collection of Common Moth Photographs

Shown here are a few quick moth favorites. We'll get more posted from our archives ... so visit again soon.

Luna Moth

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Luna Moth in Texas

Cecropia Moth

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Cecropia Moth

Promethea Moth

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Promethea Moth

Polyphemus Moth

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Polyphemus Moth

Black Witch Moth

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Black Witch Moth

White-Lined Sphinx Moth

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White-Lined Sphinx Moth

Snowberry Clearwing Hummingbird Moth

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Snowberry Clearwing Hummingbird Moth

Io Moth

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Io Moth

Nessus Sphinx Moth

Nessus Sphinx (Amphion floridensis)

Spiny Oakworm Moth

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Spiny Oakworm Moth

Little Pink Moth

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Little Pink Moth

Cinnabar Moth
Tyria jacobaeae

  This moth is a native species in Europe and western and central Asia then east across the Palearctic to Siberia to China. It has been introduced into New Zealand, Australia and North America to control ragwort, on which its larvae feed.

The moth is named after the red mineral cinnabar because of the red patches on its predominantly black wings.  

Cinnabar Moth

Painted Schinia Moth

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Photo of the Painted Schinia Moth

Imperial Moth

Imperial Moth

Eight-spotted Forester Moth

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Eight-spotted Forester Moth

Leopard Moth

Leopard Moth

White Furcula Moth

White Furcula Moth

Salt Marsh Moth

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Salt Marsh Moth

Tersa Sphinx Moth

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Tersa Sphinx Moth

Indomitable Graphic Moth (Melipotis indomita)

Indomitable Graphic Moth

Walnut Sphinx Moth

Walnut Sphinx Moth

Large Maple Spanworm Moth

Large Maple Spanworm Moth

Tiger Moth

Tiger Moth

Underwing Moth

Underwing Moth

Emerald Moth

Emerald Moth

Geometer Moth

Geometer Moth

St. Lawrence Tiger Moth

St.Lawrence Tiger Moth

Modest Sphinx Moth

Modest Sphinx Moth

Veined Ctenucha Moth

Veined Ctenucha Moth

Pandora Sphinx Moth

Pandora Sphinx Moth

Jersey Tiger Moth (UK)

Jersey Tiger Moth

 

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