The Kids Page:

October, 2014





Is that a moth or a butterfly? They look almost the same. How can you tell? They were both caterpillars that metamorphosed into insects that fly all crazy in the air. They both have two sets of wings, antennae, and scaly wings. The scales are the colorful powder that’s left on your fingers if you accidently touch one of their wings. This powdery scale gives moths and butterflies their color. With so many things in common, it’s easy to not know what is a moth and what is a butterfly.

Usually moths are not brightly colored, but some moths are beautifully colored with green, pink, yellow, and orange. There is even a moth that looks like it has zebra stripes, and some are even rainbow colored!  Moths have fuzzy bodies and large eyes, with fuzzy antennae, and look a little like liny teddy bears with wings. Usually moths are seen only at night, but some are tricky and are out during the day, trying to fool you into thinking they’re butterflies. 

Photo at left: A North American Black Witch moth, a large brown migratory bat-like moth, Ascalapha odorata, photographed recently in Humboldt County, shown almost actual size. Photo: Norm Crawford.The largest moth in the world is the Atlas moth, which can have a wingspan bigger than a grown-up’s foot! The biggest moth in the U.S. is the beautiful light green Luna moth, which has a wingspan of up to 8 inches across, with long ‘tails’.  The smallest moth in the world, called the the pygmy leaf miner moth, can fit on your fingernail. The largest butterfly in the U.S. is the giant swallowtail, with yellow and black wings with ‘tails’ and has a wingspan of up to 6 inches.  The smallest butterfly in the world is the Western pygmy blue butterfly and has a wingspan of a half-inch, just covering the tip of your finger!  It is from Africa, but also lives in California. 

Telling the difference between butterflies and moths can be difficult! Next time you go outside at night, turn the porch light on and count how many beautiful moths that come out.  Then, compare them to all the beautiful butterflies you see during the day.