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Differences between moths & butterflies

Melissa Dunlap is a writer, editor and blogger specializing in lifestyle communications. Fueled by curiosity, and a tad too much coffee, Melissa enjoys dissecting current trends for the modern woman. When she's not having dance parties w...

Learn how to tell moths and butterflies apart.

Moths and butterflies have similar fluttering wings and both frequent gardens, so it can be difficult to tell which insect is which. Both moths and butterflies below to the order  Lepidoptera which contains over 100 insects, some butterflies and some moths.


Moths and butterflies have similar fluttering wings and both frequent gardens, so it can be difficult to tell which insect is which. Both moths and butterflies below to the order  Lepidoptera which contains over 100 insects, some butterflies and some moths. There are physical and behavior characteristics that differ between the two creatures that can help you figure out who's what. There are, of course, exceptions to every rule, but looking for these characteristics should give you the basics for identification.

  • Butterflies are active in the day, while moths are more active at night.

  • Butterfly antennae end in rounded clubs, while moth antennae are thin and feathery on the ends.

  • Butterflies hold their wings vertically when resting, while moths keep their wings spread.

  • Butterfly bodies are smooth, while moths are fuzzy.

  • Butterflies are generally colorful, and moths are dull colors.

  • Butterflies develop in a chrysalis, while moths develop in a cocoon.


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