The One-Spotted Variant Moth (Hypagyrtis unipunctata) is a fairly common type of moth in the eastern United States. This moth’s typically coloration is brown with variations from pale to dark. Their wings will have bands and spots on them. Although, the pattern of bands and spots is not consistent across all individuals, they all do have one tan spot near the tip of the forewings. (1)
Moths are a part of the Lepidoptera order of insects. The Lepidoptera order also includes the butterflies. Scientists believe that there are about “160,000 species of moths in the world, compared to 17,500 species of butterflies.”(2) It is estimated that there are around 11,000 different species of moths living in the United States.
Butterflies and moths are very similar in many ways and sometimes be difficult to know what you are looking at. There are, however, a few things to look for when you are trying to identify one of these insects. Below is a list of some of the frequently identified differences between butterflies and moths.(5)
Antenna – Moths have feathery or saw-edged antennae, whereas butterflies antennae are thinner with a bulb at the end.
Wings – While not in flight, moths tend to hold their wings out flat and cover their abdomen, whereas butterflies tend to hold their wings vertically. Another characteristic of the wings is that a moth’s fore wings and aft wings are coupled together with something called a frenulum. This allows the wings two parts of the wings to move together while in flight. Butterflies don’t necessarily have this.
Moths are typically nocturnal insects, meaning that they fly at night. Whereas butterflies are diurnal, meaning they fly during the day.
Cocoon vs Chrysalis:
The cocoon and chrysalis are the protective coverings that moths and butterflies make to protect the pupa. The pupa is the term used to describe the transitional period of their life cycle from caterpillar to flying insects. Moths make a cocoon that is wrapped in a silk like covering, whereas butterflies make a chrysalis which is hard and smooth without the silk like covering.
It is important to remember that as with most things in the natural world, there are usually exceptions to the rules. Richard Fox at Butterfly-Conservation.org wrote this really interesting piece about how scientific research is showing that these rules do not always apply. You can read that piece here.
In the past, I haven’t spent a lot of time thinking about moths. However, this year, I am hoping to change that. That is why I am going to be participating in National Moth Week.
“National Moth Week celebrates the beauty, life cycles, and habitats of moths. ‘Moth-ers’ of all ages and abilities are encouraged to learn about, observe, and document moths in their backyards, parks, and neighborhoods. National Moth Week is being held, worldwide, during the last full week of July.” (Nationalmothweek.org)
In the upcoming weeks, NaturalistWeekly.com will be on the hunt for different types of moths. We will also be doing lots of moth research and sharing more information about how you can participate in National Moth Week. To get you started, here is this National Moth Week’s informational flyer for you to download and share.
I hope you will join me in this adventure to learn more about the world of moths!
- Insectidentification.org: One-Spotted Variant
- Smithsonian Institute: Moths
- Natural History Museum: Spotlight Atlas Moth
- Natural History Museum: The tiniest moth
- Library of Congress: How to tell the difference between a butterfly and a moth
- Butterfly-Coservation.org: What is the difference between butterflies and moths
- National Moth Week
- National Moth Week Flyer