Butterflies and moths have many things in common, mainly scales that cover their bodies and wings. These scales are actually modified hairs. Butterflies and moths belong to the order Lepidoptera (from the Greek lepis meaning scale and pteronmeaning wing).
Here are some other ways that help to identify butterflies and moths:
- Butterflies tend to fold their wings vertically up over their backs. Moths tend to hold their wings in a tent-like fashion that hides the abdomen.
- Butterflies are typically larger and have more colorful patterns on their wings. Moths are typically smaller with drab-colored wings.
Moths have a frenulum, which is a wing-coupling device. Butterflies do not have frenulums. Frenulums join the forewing to the hind wing, so the wings can work in unison during flight.
Butterflies are primariy diurnal, flying in the daytime. Moths are generally nocturnal, flying at night. However, there are moths that are diurnal, such as the buck moth and there are butterflies that are crepuscular, that is, flying at dawn and dusk.
Cocoons and chrysalides are protective coverings for the pupa. The pupa is the intermediate stage between the larva and adult. A moth makes a cocoon, which is wrapped in a silk covering. A butterfly makes a chrysalis, which is hard, smooth and has no silk covering.
As scientists discover and study new species of butterflies and moths, distinctions between the two is becoming blurred. Some moths may fool you into thinking that they are butterflies such as the Urania leilus, a colorful day flying moth from Peru. The Castnioidea moths, found in the neotropics, Indonesia, and Australia exhibit many of the characteristics of butterflies such as brightly colored wings, clubbed antenna and day flying.