Differentiating between butterflies and moths

The beautiful array of colours displayed by a butterfly is in vast contrast to the dull ones owned by a moth. But there is more to each than first meets the eye.

Butterflies

  • They have thin antennae with club-shaped ends
    A blue Morpho peleides butterfly at Butterfly Paradise
  • Butterflies are almost exclusively active during the day
  • There are 20,000 butterfly species in the world
  • Some butterfly species have up to 12 lifecycles a year. These tend occur in spring and summer when there is more daylight
  • An unusual species is a glasswing because its wings are mostly seethrough
  • The adult stage usually lasts two to three weeks
  • Butterflies generally form an exposed pupa, also termed as a chrysalis
  • They have slender, smooth abdomens and fine scales

Moths

  • Moths either have feathery antennae, or filamentous and unclubbed   
    Full body shot of the Atlas Moth in Butterfly Paradise
  • The silkmoths, such as the Atlas moths, do all their eating when caterpillars, so the adults do not even have mouthparts and live only a week or two.
  • Many have a 'frenulum' or filament arising from the hindwing that couples with barbs on the forewing, that butterflies lack.
  • Most species of moth are active at night
  • Moth caterpillars generally spin a cocoon made of silk within which they metamorphose into pupae
  • They tend to have stout and furry bodies, as well as larger scales on their wings