Butterfly or moth ?
How you can differentiate between butterflies and moths? Are there clear distinguishing features? Can you rely on your common sense? In this abstract we will find answers to all of these questions.
What do you think are good distinguishing features?
First there is the most obvious characteristic that already the name betrays. Butterflies fly at day and moths fly at night. Is that correct? Sorry! This statement is unfortunately not completely correct. But, it is sufficient for the domestic use. In order to be exact, there are some moths, who fly on day.
What is with the argument that butterflies are multicolored and beautiful but moths are grey and ugly? Also this argument cannot be made valid as general rule, since some moths have strong colors and beautiful wing designs.
With the following illustrations you can put your common sense to the test. But note! It is sometimes really difficult to decide whether it is a butterfly or a moth.
Here is the answer:
- Fig.1 Alcidis agathyrsus is a moth from Neuguinea but it flies at day.
- Fig.2 Papilio laglaizei is butterfly and it mimic the moth from fig. 1.
- Fig.3 Hamadryas februa is a butterfly from South America.
- Fig.4 Urania ripheus (Rainbow moth) is a moth from Madagascar but it flies at day.
- Fig.5 Argema mittrei is a moth.
- Fig.6 Attacus atlas is one of the biggest moths on the world.
The distinguishing features:
These are the important things, which you need to identify butterflies and moths.
- Butterflies exclusively fly on the day, have narrow antennae, which are thickened at the end (clubs). In the quiescent position butterflies mostly fold the wings up over the back.
- Moths predominantly fly at night, but some of them fly also on the day. Moths have very differently designed antennae, but these antennae never resemble those of the butterflies. The antennae can be threadlike, toothed or pinnated. In the quiescent position the wings of the moths are usually spread beside the body. The hind wings, which are often completely differently colored as the fore wings, are hidden under the forward wings. Often the wings are also folded up like a roof over the body.
Here are the names of the insects illustrated above:
- Fig. 7 is a typical butterfly in the quiescent position, with thickened antennae.
- Fig. 8 Arctia caja (Garden Tiger) is a typical moth. The antennae are pinnated.
- Fig. 9 Brintesia circe (Great Banded Grayling) is a typical butterfly in the quiescent position. Unfortunately the feelers are not to be seen.