This page is about Moths and Butterflies in general. There is more information about the families of Butterflies on their separate pages. Because Moths are hard to identify, we are just giving this one page for all Moth species.
Moth and Butterfly larvae (caterpillars) look fairly similar. They have long soft bodies, sometimes protected with spikes or hairs, and a head with chewing mouthparts. They have six jointed legs and then 1 to 5 (depending on group) pairs of soft unjointed legs called prolegs. Butterfly caterpillars always have 5 pairs of prolegs and are covered with fine hairs. Moth caterpillars may have either 5 pairs or prolegs (often fewer) or hairs, but not both. Most caterpillars are green or brown, and have color patterns that help camouflage them. Some caterpillars are poisonous or have toxic hairs or spines, and they often have bright warning colors to discourage predators from trying to eat them.
Adult Moths and Butterflies all have large wings that are covered with tiny scales. Each scale has a color, and together they give these insects their amazing wing patterns. No other insect groups have this coating of scales on their wings. Butterflies hold their wings up and down over their backs, while moths usually hold them folded down flat. Color patterns vary a lot, but like the caterpillars, they are usually either camouflaged or bright with warning colors.
All Butterflies and nearly all Moth species have special sucking mouthparts that coil up into a little spiral. No other insects have mouthparts that coil up this way. The bodies of these insects are soft, and covered with fine hairs. Butterflies tend to be longer and skinnier, with longer legs, and moths shorter and fatter with thicker hair, but this is not always true.
Butterflies and moths have large eyes and one pair of antennae. Butterfly antennae are thin with a thick section at the tip. Moth antennae are thin all the way to the end, or have lots of side branches so they look like feathers.
Other Physical Features: ectothermic ; bilateral symmetry ; polymorphic
Sexual Dimorphism: female larger
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