Moth or Butterfly?

I wondered as I watched them flit from flower to flower in my herb garden.

I’d assumed they were moths, and I was wrong.

“Butterfly or moth? There are ways to tell them apart. Butterflies generally have long, smooth antennae that are rounded on the ends, while most moths have thick, feathery antennae. Moths also tend to have larger, fuzzier bodies than butterflies. Most moths fly at night, while most butterflies fly during the day. Because of when they’re active, butterflies tend to be more colorful than moths, but that’s not always the case. 

You can see another difference when they’re resting: most moths flatten their wings out over their bodies, while most butterflies raise them up and against each other. And although both butterflies and moths develop in a chrysalis, most moths also spin a protective cocoon.”

It turns out these little flyers are called ‘skippers,’ of the group ‘Lepidoptera’ that includes all butterflies and moths. At one time they were considered to be a third category within the order but are now considered butterflies, of the distinct family Hesperiidae.

I suppose a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. Still, a ‘moth’ doesn’t get the same respect as a ‘butterfly’ does, so I was happy this little skipper is a butterfly. Regardless, its a welcome pollinator in my garden.

~ Susanne

19 Comments on “Moth or Butterfly?

  1. Thanks – great post. Very informative. Have to say though, whether moth or butterfly, I love them all. There are many truly spectacular moths out there, too.

  2. We have a few butterflies that have been taking trips around the yard each day, and they make for a minute or two of fun watching them doing their daily thing. I love ’em all, whether they be butterfly or moth.

    • I love them too! I’ve been watching the swallowtails in my garden for the past month or so but they don’t land often so it’s been harder to get photos. These skippers are so plentiful in my garden so it’s been fun to watch them closeup. 🙂

  3. Great photos, Susanne. Love the in-flight one. We get skippers around here and they do have a moth-like appearance.

  4. Butterflies don’t flap around your house lights at night. That’s about all I know of their differences to moths. 🙂
    Best wishes, Pete.

    • True! Butterflies are out during the day while moths fly at night. Since they evolved to navigate by the moon they’re attracted by bright light. Or so I just read. 😊

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