Do you ever get moths and butterflies confused? Can you tell which is which when they flutter on past? We all know a Monarch butterfly when we see one, but what about one of those plain yellow or white ones we see all the time? Butterflies or moths? Let’s find out.
First of all, yes most butterflies tend to be diurnal and most moths are nocturnal, but that is not always the rule of thumb. There are some moths flying around in the daytime right alongside butterflies and there are certain butterflies that are only active at dawn and dusk. So, here are a few ways to easily distinguish a butterfly from a moth. One way is to first look at the antennae (if you are able). The antennae of butterflies are more club-like with a long shaft followed by a bulb at the end. A moth’s antennae are different and look almost feathery having a saw-edged quality to them.
Another difference is how they each hold their wings while at rest. Butterflies will typically hold their wings upright and folded together, while moths will flatten their wings or spread them out against their bodies.
Butterflies and moths also pupate differently when they go through metamorphosis. Butterflies will form a chrysalis, or a protective shell, which is hard and smooth with no silk covering. Moths make a cocoon, which is very similar to a chrysalis but is wrapped in silk.
Butterflies tend to be more vibrant in color and have more complex wing patterns while moths are not typically colorful or vibrant. Also, moth wings have a structure called a frenulum, which joins the forewing to the hind wing, something completely lacking in the butterfly anatomy.
For more reading on the differences between moths and butterflies, click here!
Click here or a list of the different butterflies and moths found in Massachusetts!