Butterflies and Moths

Butterflies and moths are insects.

They have wings.

They have 6 legs.

They have a long, curled tongue.

Butterflies and moths are very similar. Some people find them hard to tell apart. Some things about butterflies and moths are the same and some are different.

Things that are the same
Butterflies and moths are insects, in the group of insects called lepidoptera (say lep-i-dop-turr-uh). Their bodies have 3 sections, the head, thorax and abdomen. There are 6 legs joined to the middle section (the thorax), 3 on each side. They have 2 wings on each side of the body.

They have a long tongue called a proboscis (say prob-oss-kus), which is curled inside the mouth. The tongue uncurls for feeding, and is used like a drinking straw.

Their wings are covered with tiny scales. If you touch a butterfly or moth, you will see what looks like dust on your hand. The dust is actually tiny scales.

A butterfly's wings through a microscope, showing the tiny scales

Some wings are colourful. Some wings have marks to scare away animals that might eat them.

These markings look like eyes, which might confuse or trick a predator

Wing patterns often look like the insect's habitat to provide camouflage. The insect looks like part of where it is resting and is harder for a predator to find.

Things that are different
There are some differences between butterflies and moths.

Butterflies have knobs at the end of their antennae, and moths never do. Many moths have feathery antennae.

Butterflies fly in the daytime, and when they rest, their wings stand upright. Moths fly at night, and when they rest, their wings lie flat.

Moths have tiny hooks that join the top, or fore, wing to the lower, or hind, wing. Butterflies do not.

Moths have hairier bodies than butterflies do.

Life Cycle
The life cycle of butterflies and moths is generally the same. Like many insects, they go through 4 stages: egg, larva (more than one is larvae), pupa (more than one is pupae), and adult.

Egg stage
After mating, a female butterfly or moth lays many
eggs in a place that will provide food for the caterpillars when they hatch.

Larval stage: When the larvae, or caterpillars, hatch out of the eggs, many kinds will first eat the shells of the egg they have come out of. The caterpillars eat and eat and grow, but their skin does not. They have to shed their skin a few times, and each time there is a new, bigger skin underneath. This is process is called moulting.
Pupal stage: When a larva has grown big enough, it grips onto a leaf or bark and begins to cover itself with silk from its body. This is called a cocoon (for a moth) or chrysalis (say kris-a-liss) for a butterfly. Inside the cocoon the caterpillar is changing - it is pupating.

Adult stage:

After a few weeks, the moth's cocoon or the butterfly's chrysalis splits open and out climbs a butterfly or moth!

The insect stretches out its wings to unfold and dry before flying away to find a mate.

Butterflies and moths do not live very long, and females have just a few days to mate and lay eggs.

Life of a Monarch Butterfly, Time-Lapse
More educational games & videos on Metamorphosis at NeoK12.com  

If you use any part of this in your own work, acknowledge the source in your bibliography like this:
Sydenham, S. & Thomas, R. Butterflies and Moths [Online] www.kidcyber.com.au (2006)
My Butterfly Garden Back to Insects Back to Animals Index

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