Butterflies and moths are both members of the order Lepidoptera and are easily confused because of their similar wings, body shapes and life cycles. They both go through the process of metamorphosis to change from larva to adults. However, there are some differences between the two that distinguish them from one another:
- Body shape: While butterflies and moth look similar, their body shapes are slightly different. Butterflies tend to have slender, smoother bodies while moths often have plumper, hairier bodies.
- Wings: Butterfly wings are usually bigger and more colorful, with intricate patterns and brighter hues. Moths tend to have smaller, duller wings with more subtle patterns.
- Antennae: Butterfly antennae are typically thin with a small club at the end, while moth antennae can be feathery, comb-like or taper to a point.
- Activity: Butterflies are usually most active during the day and moths are more active at night.
- Wing position at rest: Wing position is one of the easiest ways to tell the difference between butterflies and moths. Butterflies typically hold their wings together above their backs (like clapping hands), while moths tend to lay their wings flat to their sides.
- Chrysalis vs. cocoons: Another main difference occurs during the process of metamorphosis. Butterfly caterpillars shed their final layer of skin in the pupal stage and harden into a chrysalis. Moth caterpillars typically spin silk around themselves or use dirt and debris to form a cocoon before shedding their final layer of skin.
These are some of the main differences between butterflies and moths. However, there are always exceptions to these generalizations, and some moth species can be just as colorful and striking as butterflies.