Differences between butterflies and moths

I took the ladies to the Academy of Natural Sciences last week, and one of our very favorite exhibits there is called BUTTERFLIES! I like it almost as much as the stuffed bird room on the third floor, and the super sweet Cowbird in the Children’s room who absolutely loves my older daughter and always talks to her when we visit. Cowie, Cowie, he calls, and puts his head down for a scratch. ANYWAY. At the Buttterflies! exhibit, we spoke w/ a friendly & highly knowledgeable staff person who explained to us the difference between moths & butterflies, something I had always wondered about but never quite knew.

Three easy ways of identifying a MOTH vs. BUTTERFLY:

1) Moths are mostly nocturnal, i.e., they’re active at night and rest during the day. Butterflies are the opposite – awake during the day, at rest during the night.

2) Moths, when they rest, spread their wings out to each side, wide open. Butterflies, on the other hand, close their wings together & keep them upright. They may gently beat them up and down while feeding, but mostly keep them closed rather than spread to each side.

3) Moths have short, feathery antennae, while butterflies have long, thin antennae w/ a “club” (nub-like doo-da) at the tip.

Some other interesting facts (excerpted from National Geographic Kids magazine):

Atlas Moths are the largest moths in the world, some w/ a wingspan of 12 inches. But they live for only three days. Sad.

Monarch Butterflies eat poisonous milkweed plants, rendering them toxic to other animals. Other types of Butterflies, such as the Viceroy, mimic the Monarchs coloring to fool predators into avoiding them as well.

Butterflies have sensory organs on their legs which act as tastebuds — so they can literally “taste” how ripe fruit is just by landing on it. PRETTY COOL.

When butterflies emerge from their chrysalis cocoons, their wings are crumpled and wet. If they don’t unfurl them properly and let them dry, their wings will stay wrinkled and they won’t be able to fly.

Caterpillars are eating machines. Some may grow to 100 times their original size.

Click HERE to read about the Four Stages of Butterfly & Moth Metamorphosis: Egg, Larva (Caterpillar), Pupa and Adult.

Lastly, my younger daughter & I very much enjoyed a picture book about Butterflies called Gotta Go! Gotta Go! by Sam Swope & Sue Riddle. I dare you to read it and NOT have the catchline stuck in your head for weeks.


7 thoughts on “Differences between butterflies and moths

  1. Ooh, I love Flutterbys! We get some gorgeous ones around here, but I never knew the difference between butterflies and moths – I used to think the ugly ones were the moths, but some of them are really pretty!

  2. You can only guess what gotta go means to me! 🙂 Have you ever tried one of those kits where you “grow” the butterflies and then release them. We did this at the Montessori school I taught at and it was amazing! I either have Monarchs or imitators all over my flowers.
    Love this post!

  3. Hayden LOOOOVES her blue.

    Tracie, if you ever make it up to Philly, you’ll have to check out the exhibit. There was even one w/ transparent panels on its wings. Fabulous.

    Connie, do you need to pee? Just kidding. I will have to google and see if I can find one of those kits. Sounds awesome. We have a huge butterfly bush in our front yard and have been getting a whole array of them feeding. Have to admit I prefer watching the bees at the salvia though — we get these really cute chubby ones, they look like they’re wearing fuzzy yellow ski vests, and they go so diligently from tiny flower to flower. I love them.

  4. very educational! i’ll never forget receiving a butterfly “kit” for my birthday one year. it contained a net, some pins, some foam, and vials of POISON. when i figured out i was supposed to kill the butterflies, i freaked out and refused to play with the kit.

  5. YAY! Curly, you’re bACK!!!!
    As for your butterfly “kit”, I am so glad you were horrified, rather than fascinated, by it. We found out from the staffer at the Academy of Natural Sciences that there are restrictions on the disposal of the butterflies once they die. Maddie asked what happens to them, thinking perhaps they are mounted, but the staff person told us they have to be collected, and once enough are gathered, they’re incinerated. I thought they might encase them in plastic or something, try to sell them, but there are gov’t regulations against it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.