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Difference Between Butterfly and Moth

Butterfly vs Moth

Both the butterfly and the moth are of the order Lepidoptera and their life cycle consists of four stages; egg, larva, pupa, and adult.  Both have very short life spans although some species can live up to one year.  Although they are of the same family, butterflies and moths have very striking differences.

One of the most obvious differences between the two is their time of activity.  Most moths are nocturnal, meaning they go about their business at night.  They are attracted to the artificial lights of the night.  One explanation to this is transverse orientation or being able to fly in a straight line by maintaining a relationship with a bright light.

Butterflies on the other hand fly during the day, especially early in the morning when they collect nectar from flowers.  They can reproduce several broods a year and usually lay on host plants.  They have thin club shaped antennae with rounded ends, whereas moths’ have thin and feathery antennae.

Butterflies have very colorful wings but so do some day flying moths which are also toxic.  Majority of moths are nocturnal though and they are dull colored.  Their dull color is for the purpose of hiding them from predators during the day.

While most moths have tiny hooks or bristles called the frenulum that hold their hind wings and forewings, butterflies don’t.  Moths have scales on their wings making them look fat while butterflies are more slender.  The reason for this is because moths do not absorb solar radiation like butterflies do so their bodies have to adapt to cold nights by developing hairy and furry bodies.

Another difference between the two is their development in the cocoon and pupae stages.  Butterfly caterpillars form exposed pupa called a chrysalis while moth caterpillars spin a cocoon.  There are other species that defy this rule but they are the exception to the rule.   The forelegs of butterflies are usually underdeveloped while moths have fully developed forelegs.

When resting, moths spread their wings out while butterflies fold their wings or hold them in a jet plane position (folding the wings halfway).  Sometimes butterflies spread their wings while they are resting but only for a short period of time, while the winter moth rests with wings folded vertically.

The fact that moths and butterflies come from the same family of insects does not mean that they have the same characteristics.  They have more differences than similarities.  They are both very useful in the cycle of life though and are very important in maintaining the balance in our environment.

1. Butterflies have very colorful wings while moths have dull wings.
2. Butterflies fly at daytime while moths fly during night time.
3. Butterflies are slender, moths are fat and furry.
4. Butterflies form a chrysalis, moths form cocoons.
5. Moths have frenulum, butterflies don’t.
6. The forelegs of moths are fully developed while the butterflies are underdeveloped.
7. When butterflies are resting, they fold their wings while moths spread their wings when they rest.
8. Butterflies have club shaped antennae while moths have thin antennae.

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