Butterflies at Home

White-lined Sphinx Hummingbird Moth

We love watching butterflies, and moths too!

A moth is an insect related to the butterfly, both being of the order Lepidoptera. There are an estimated 160,000 species of moth, about 10 times the number of species of butterfly.

In general, moths tend to be stockier and have furry bodies, whereas butterflies are smooth and lean. 

Butterflies tend to fold their wings vertically up over their backs, while moths hold their wings in a tent-like fashion hiding the abdomen. Butterflies are typically larger and have more colorful patterns on their wings. Moths are typically smaller with drab-colored wings, but many are colorful.

Moths are not all drab-colored! Here are four large, colorful moths found in North America
Four large, colorful moths found in North America: Luna, Polyphemus, Cecropia and PrometheaButterflies at Home


Butterflies are primarily diurnal, flying in the daytime. Moths are generally nocturnal, flying at night. However, there are moths that are diurnal, such as the buck moth and there are butterflies that are crepuscular, meaning they fly at dawn and dusk. A moth makes a cocoon, which is wrapped in a silk covering. A butterfly makes a chrysalis, which is hard, smooth and has no silk covering.

Nocturnal moths are usually plain brown, grey, white or black and often possess patterns of zigzags or swirls which help camouflage them from predators as they rest during the day. However, many day-flying moths are brightly colorred, particularly if they are toxic.

Additionally, moth wings, unlike butterfly wings, have a structure called a frenulum, which joins the forewing to the hind wing.

A butterfly’s antennae are club-shaped with a long shaft and a bulb at the end. A moth’s antennae are feathery or saw-edged (see the side-by-side comparison of a butterfly and moth below).

Butterfly (l) and moth (r) side-by-side comparison
Butterfly (left) and moth (right) side-by-side comparison


Butterfly or Moth? No single feature distinguishes one from another
Sign at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson, Arizona (Staff Photo)

Butterfly or Moth? Sign at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson, Arizona

Our Collection of Common Moth Photographs

Shown here are a few moth favorites, arranged not by scientific classifications, but by common traits ... like large, brownish, black & white, etc. We'll get more posted from our archives ... so visit again soon.

Large Moths

Luna Moth (Actias luna) click for details

Luna Moth

Cecropia Moth (Hyalophora cecropia) click for details

Cecropia Moth

Promethea Moth (Callosamia promethea) click for details

Promethea Moth

Polyphemus Moth (Antheraea polyphemus) click for details

Polyphemus Moth

Atlas Moth (Attacus atlas) (Asia)
One of the largest lepidopterans, with a wingspan measuring up to 9.4 inches

Atlas Moth (Attacus atlas)

Black Witch Moth (Ascalapha odorata) click for details

Black Witch Moth

Imperial Moth (Eacles imperialis) click for details

Imperial Moth (male)
Male Imperial Moth
Imperial Moth (female)
Female Imperial Moth

Modest Sphinx Moth (Pachysphinx modesta) click for details

Modest Sphinx Moth

"Hummingbird" Moths

White-Lined Sphinx Moth (Hyles lineata) click for details

White-Lined Sphinx Moth

Snowberry Clearwing Moth (Hemaris diffinis) click for details

Snowberry Clearwing Hummingbird Moth

Hummingbird Clearwing Moth (Hemaris thysbe) click for details

Hummingbird Clearwing (Hemaris thysbe)

Nessus Sphinx Moth (Amphion floridensis)

Nessus Sphinx (Amphion floridensis)

Pink and Red Moths

Little Pink Moth (Pyrausta inornatalis) click for details

Little Pink Moth

Cinnabar Moth (Tyria jacobaeae)

  This moth is a native species in Europe and western and central Asia then east across the Palearctic to Siberia to China. It has been introduced into New Zealand, Australia and North America to control ragwort, on which its larvae feed.

The moth is named after the red mineral cinnabar because of the red patches on its predominantly black wings.  

Cinnabar Moth

Painted Schinia Moth (Schinia volupia) click for details

Photo of the Painted Schinia Moth

Black and White Moths

Eight-spotted Forester Moth (Alypia octomaculata) click for details

Eight-spotted Forester Moth

Giant Leopard Moth (Hypercompe scribonia) click for details

Giant Leopard Moth

Jersey Tiger Moth (Euplagia quadripunctaria) (UK)

Jersey Tiger Moth

White Furcula Moth (Furcula borealis)

White Furcula Moth

Salt Marsh Moth (Estigmene acrea) click for details

Salt Marsh Moth

Indomitable Graphic Moth (Melipotis indomita)

Indomitable Graphic Moth

Veined Ctenucha Moth (Ctenucha venosa) click for details

Veined Ctenucha Moth

Geometer Moth

Geometer Moth

Police Car Moth (Gnophaela vermiculata)

Police Car Moth

Brown and Browish Moths

Tersa Sphinx Moth (Xylophanes tersa) click to enlarge

Tersa Sphinx Moth

Walnut Sphinx Moth (Amorpha juglandis)

Walnut Sphinx Moth

Tricolor Buckmoth (Hemileuca tricolor)

Tricolor Buckmoth

Large Maple Spanworm Moth (Prochoerodes lineola)

Large Maple Spanworm Moth

Box Tree Moth (Cydalima perspectalis) (UK)

Box Tree Moth (UK)

Moths with Green Coloration

Emerald Moth

Emerald Moth

Pandora Sphinx Moth (Eumorpha pandorus)

Pandora Sphinx Moth

Banded Sphinx Moth (Eumorpha fasciatus)

Banded Sphinx Moth

Orange Moths and those with Orange Markings

Spiny Oakworm Moth (Anisota stigma) click for details

Spiny Oakworm Moth

Io Moth (Automeris io) click for details

Io Moth

Mint Moth (Pyrausta aurata) (UK)

Mint Moth

Tiger Moth

Tiger Moth

Underwing Moth

Underwing Moth

St. Lawrence Tiger Moth (Arctia parthenos)

St.Lawrence Tiger Moth

click to visit the Butterfly Store ... books, cages, nets, calendars, flags and more!
Need more help identifying moths? Consider these popular books at our Amazon Store
Peterson First Guide to Butterflies and Moths of North America
Peterson First Guide to Butterflies and Moths of North America ... at Amazon
Kaufman Field Guide to Butterflies
of North America
Kaufman Field Guide to Butterflies of North America ... at Amazon
The Life Cycles of Butterflies
The Life Cycles of Butterflies ... at Amazon
Stoke's Beginner's Guide to Butterflies
Stoke's Beginner's Guide to Butterflies ... at Amazon
About These Products

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