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Difference between Butterfly and Moth

Butterfly and moth are closely related species that belong to the same order Lepidoptera. People often confuse butterflies with moths as these flying insects look alike. Let us understand the key differences between butterfly and moth so that we could easily differentiate one from another!


Butterflies are brightly coloured day-flying insects found in many countries across the world. The scientific name of the butterfly is Rhopalocera. They have colourful wings and delicate bodies with thin, clubbed antenna. There are around 18500 species of butterflies all over the world. The colour pattern on their wings is due to the presence of pigments on the scales. The smallest butterfly is pygmy blue (scientific name: Brephidium exile) which is around 19 mm in width, whereas Queen Alexandra's birdwing (scientific name: Ornithoptera alexandrae) is the largest butterfly in the world.

Butterflies are diurnal which means they are active during the day. They tend to fold their wings back while resting, i.e. the wings remain at the right angle to the surface. They are herbivorous as they feed on a plant-based diet such as pollen and nectar. Their life cycle comprises four stages: egg, larva, pupa and adult. In the pupal stage of their life cycle, butterflies make chrysalises which are smooth and without silk covering. The natural predators of butterflies include frogs, reptiles, bats etc.


Moths are dull coloured flying insects. They have four wings covered with scales, a coiled proboscis and feathery, comb-like antenna without bulbs at the tips. There are around 140000 species of moths in order Lepidoptera in the animal kingdom. Their body or wings are less colourful as compared to butterflies. Their life cycle comprises four stages: Egg, larva, pupa and adult. In the pupal stage of their life cycle, moths make cocoons wrapped in silk coverings.

Moths are nocturnal which means they are active during the night, i.e. they mostly fly at night. They tend to spread out their wings in a jet plane position while resting. Moths are mostly herbivorous as they exclusively feed on a plant-based diet. The natural predators of moths include birds, reptiles, bats, rodents, spiders etc.

Based on the above information, some of the key differences between a butterfly and moth are as follows:

Butterfly Moth
Their body is slim, slender and less hairy. Their body is thick, chubby and hairy.
They have colourful wings. Their wings are generally dull coloured.
They have thin antenna with club-shaped tips. They have feathery or comb-like antennas, not knobbed at the tips.
They are slender and smooth. They are stout and hairy.
They are diurnal, i.e. they are active during the day. They are nocturnal, i.e. they are active during the night.
Their wings are at right angles to the surface while they are resting. Their wings are parallel to the surface at rest.
Fore wings and hind wings are not connected as they do not possess a frenulum. Fore wings and hind wings are connected through frenulum.
Pupae are naked, i.e. they are not covered in cocoons. The pupae are enclosed in cocoons.
They warm up their body in the Sun. They move their wings to warm up their body.
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