Butterfly Or Moth


A sketch of the details in the wings of the butterfly from the surface (left wing) to a closer look in deeper detail (right wing).

Is it a moth? Or butterfly? Both resemble each other, but appear different. Sometimes due to their colors a butterfly can be mistaken for a moth. However, moths and butterflies measure up around the same size. Butterflies and moths have multiple distinctive features. Some of their common similarities cause such big confusion between the two. Before figuring out their similarities you have to first figure out rather or not its a butterfly or moth.

To determine if it is a butterfly, you have to look at the wings in detail. Butterflies have four wings in total. Two hind wings and two fore wings. In all four wing there is a cell that is near the edge of the wing yet closer to the abdomen. None of the wings are connected but they appear to be. Each wing has certain spots on them that are classified due to their placement. Moths also have these exact same features. When moths are sitting their wings are closed but flat on their backs  or they sit with them flared out. Butterflies sit with their wings closed on their backs. Moth wings are wide just like butterfly wings. However, to tell the difference you have to pay attention to the color of the wings. Moth wings aren’t usually brightly colored, but butterfly wings are. Moth wings usually have larger scales, butterflies have smaller but fine scales.

Another way to determine whether its a moth or butterfly you have to know when and by their abdomen and antennae. Moths are more active at night time (nocturnal) then during the day. However, the Sunset Moth (Uraniidae)  or the diurnal Gypsy Moth are exceptions. Butterflies are active during the daytime making them diurnal creatures. Butterflies have a more slender abdomen, and moths abdomens are more stockier and covered in hair. Moth’s antennae are near feather like. They are thicker towards the middle but thin out to a point with projection that make them appear like little feathers sticking out of their head. As for butterflies, their antennae are club like shaped.  Long and thin but thicker at the ends.

Using all the information above to identify butterflies and moths will help out the BAMONA (Butterflies and Moths of North America) Project. This project is looking for different species of butterflies and moth. Their website is setup for people to submit pictures of the butterflies and moth, but they ask you to first know rather its a moth or a butterfly before submitting. By knowing the information above, you could send some quality photos.


Eastern Moths By Charles V. Covell, Jr.

Butterflies of North America By Jim P. Brock & Kenn Kaufman