What Is the Difference Between a Moth and a Butterfly?


Quick Answer

Moths and butterflies differ in their antennae, wings, behavior and pupa stages. One of the easiest ways to distinguish between the two is to look at their antennae in either the larva or adult stages. Butterfly antennae tend to be long-shafted ending at a bulb, while moth antennae are feathery.

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Full Answer

Another physical difference between butterflies and moths is their wings. Butterflies don't fold their wings down along the abdomen like moths; they fold them up vertically above their backs. A frenulum, a ridge of bristles that allows each set of wings to work together in concert, joins a moth's forewings and hindwings. Butterflies don't have frenula.

Moths and butterflies differ slightly in their life cycle. They both progress from a larva to a pupa and into adulthood. During the pupa stage, the inactive period when butterflies and moths develop into winged insects, butterflies build and live in a hard chrysalis, while moths build and live in a flexible silk cocoon. The behavior between the two also differs as the butterflies are diurnal, or active during the day, and moths are nocturnal, or active during the night.

Despite their differences, butterflies and moths have many similarities. They belong to the same Lepidoptera order, undergo a pupa stage and boast bright colors and unique patterns.

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