Moth or Butterfly?

How do you tell the difference between a moth and a butterfly?


If you like butterflies, you'll love Rachel's song "La Mariposa" (the butterfly) and the story "Chester's Surprise" about a chipmunk and his friend Caty the Caterpillar. Listen to it now on track 12 & 13 of her CD Tap Those Toes!

Moth or Butterfly? Look for these clues:

Butterflies usually rest with their wings closed, while moths rest with their wings open.

Butterflies have long, thin antenna, while moths have shorter feathery antennas.

Butterflies generally gather food during the day while moths are seen more at nighttime.

Most moths make a silky cocoon, while butterflies usually make a shiny chrysalis.

Lepidoptera (/ˌlɛpɪˈdɒptərə/ lep-i-DOP-tər-ə) is an order of insects that includes butterflies and moths.

There are approximately 200,000 known species of Lepidoptera (only 10 percent of which are butterflies), so there is almost always an exception or two to every rule or generalization.


What is a cocoon? Do both butterflies and moths make them? No!


Moths, with some exceptions, make cocoons. A moth larva spins silk from modified salivary glands, forming a cocoon around itself. Inside, the larva changes into a pupa. A moth may incorporate a leaf or twigs in creating a cocoon.

Most butterflies have a naked pupa, no fuzz around it, so it isn't a cocoon. It's called a chrysalis. The chrysalis of each butterfly species has a particular shape and coloration. Some look like twigs or dead leaves, some like jeweled ornaments. The monarch's chrysalis is an elegant pale green, dotted with gold.


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