The One-Spotted Variant Moth

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)

Physical Characteristics:

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 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.” (

In the upcoming weeks, 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!


  1. One-Spotted Variant
  2. Smithsonian Institute: Moths
  3. Natural History Museum: Spotlight Atlas Moth
  4. Natural History Museum: The tiniest moth
  5. Library of Congress: How to tell the difference between a butterfly and a moth
  6. What is the difference between butterflies and moths
  7. National Moth Week
  8. National Moth Week Flyer

16 thoughts on “The One-Spotted Variant Moth

Add yours

  1. Happy Moth Week. I do like moths as well and there are plenty here in Scotland. I just don’t see as many, as not really out at night. Love the photo of your moth 😀

    I know this is a side point but I always lilke Mothra from the Godzilla movies 🙂

  2. Hi Mark. Thanks for the information on the differences between butterflies and moths. That’s really helpful.
    There was a book that was reviewed this week in one of our local newspapers – the book is called ‘Much Ado about Mothing’ written by James Lowen. This link (which takes you to Amazon UK) tells you more about it.

    I didn’t realise until now that many moths are just as beautiful as butterflies.

    1. Hi Lesley, Thanks for the book recommendation. I just downloaded the audiobook and so far it is great! This is just what I was looking for right now.

      1. Oh, that’s great, Mark! I’m looking forward to reading it and learning more about moths.

      2. I got through a couple of chapters today. The storytelling is great and I am learning a lot. Thanks for the recommendation.

      3. If you’re enjoying it, Mark, I know I will, so I will be buying it too. 🐛🦋🙌

  3. A very interesting read, Mark. I really enjoyed learning about the comparisons between the moth and the butterfly, not least the fact that a chrysalis and a cocoon are different things! Thanks for sharing 🙂

    1. Hi Sunra, Thanks for comment. I didn’t know that about the chrysalis and cocoon either! It made me think that I must have learned that in grade school, but just never retained it. Thanks again for visiting.

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