Butterflies and moths are insects that scientists call Lepidoptera, meaning, “scale winged” in Greek. They get this name from the tiny scales covering their wings and body. Like all insects, Lepidoptera have a hard outer covering called an exoskeleton, which is divided into sections and has joints so the animal can move. Also like other insects, moths and butterflies have six legs, a head, a thorax, and an abdomen.
Recently compiled estimates (Zhang, 2011) of described species suggest there are ~150,000 to 160,000 Lepidoptera species, compared to ~115,000 to 120,000 ant, bee and wasp (Hymenoptera) species.
- Zhang, Z.-Q. 2011. Animal biodiversity: An outline of higher-level classification and survey of taxonomic richness. Zootaxa(3148): 1-237. http://www.mapress.com/zootaxa/list/2011/3148.html