Different Types Of Moths: Common Species All Kids Should Know

Anamika Balouria
Mar 07, 2023 By Anamika Balouria
Originally Published on Oct 26, 2021
Fact-checked by Pradhanya Rao
Female eyed hawk moth

Moths and butterflies are often confused to be the same species, but they are not the same and differ from each other.

You must have spotted beautiful butterflies in your backyard or small garden area. Have you ever gone through a detailed observation of whether they are moths or butterflies?

Moths are a paraphyletic group of small insects that are often confused as being butterflies. Moths belong to the order of Lepidoptera and are nocturnal flying insects, unlike most butterflies.

A few moth species can be seen flying during the twilight period, while others can be seen flying in the daytime as well. Moth identification can be done by looking at their thick bodies, widespread beautiful wingspan, and antennae. Moth identification by the color of their hindwings and forewings is another way to recognize them.

It is believed by many scientists and researchers that moths existed along with butterflies even before the late Cretaceous period almost 145 million years ago. The oldest fossils of moths were dated back to 200 million years ago and were discovered in Germany.

Many moths are also known to be agricultural crop pests and cause huge damage to fields of crops. In North America, many steps have been taken to save crops from these pests which include the corn earworm, the gypsy moth, and other moths.

A moth goes through three stages before becoming a fully grown adult moth: larvae, caterpillars, and pupae or cocoon.

A few moth species names are Japanese silk moth, gypsy moth with the scientific name Lymantria dispar, tiger moth, Atlas moth, peppered moth, emperor moth, codling moth with the scientific name Cydia pomonella, sphinx moth, hummingbird hawk-moth, Luna moth with the scientific name Actias luna, tomato hornworm moth, and giant leopard moth.

Biological control of the crop pest is used in countries like North America and Europe.

If you enjoy reading this article about species of moths, then do read some interesting and surprising fun facts articles about different types of bulldogs and different types of crabs.

What are moths?

Moths are a beautiful flying insect species that are nocturnal in their behavior, with exceptions in a few species such as the sphinx moth, day moth, and buck moth.

Moths are from the order of Lepidoptera, and on average, they can live up to an age of six months to three years.

The Arctic woolly bear moth caterpillar is known to live to a maximum of seven years of age. Moths are known to fly in a method called transverse orientation, which means they fly in the dark and are attracted to the bright light of the moon.

Moths may assume that artificial light is the moonlight, so you have probably observed them flying with other small insects at night.

Often, moths are assumed to be blind. This fact is not true; rather, moths respond slowly to light in comparison to other flying insects.

While flying back to a dark surface area or in search of a food source from flowers, moths might have poor vision or it might take time for their vision to return to normal.

This situation is often confused by many who believe that moths are blind. Many moth species are troublesome because they infest field crops of their native land, such as the corn earworm or the codling moth.

A few moth species from the family of Sphingidae and the family of Erebidae are also known for their pollination activities in the Himalayan range of Asia. Artificial light has also led to a decline in the population of these moths along with a decline in their dark night pollination activities.

The Atlas moth is one of the largest moths among all the moth species.

A few pest moths are the codling moth, the tomato hornworm, the hawk moth, and the clothes moth. Most of these crop pest moths are spread out in America, Australia, and Europe along with eastern countries.

Most moth species' eggs are oval and transparent which will almost be invisible if left out in the water. Most of a moth's body color varies when it is in its larvae, caterpillar, and pupae stages.

Most caterpillars have green bodies, and when they mature into adult moths, their wings range in color from yellow to orange, black to white, brown to light pink, and so on. Larvae feed on host plants, and then larvae are scattered throughout trees' branches and green leaves.

How are moths different from butterflies?

The difference between moth and butterfly is made on the basis of their wings, thick bodies, antennae, and size.

Irrespective of the fact that moths and butterflies differ from each other, they play an important role in the balance of the ecosystem. Both species maintain the food chain with the help of night pollination, while a few of the species damage crops when they are in their larvae and caterpillar stages.

Apart from this, they also help in the production of silk, and a great example of this is the Japanese silk moth.

Butterflies and moths are called holometabolous because these two species go through great body transitions throughout their life cycle. The two species have three pairs of legs and one pair of antennae.

They are good pollinators as well as being crop pests. The bright-colored wings of butterflies cover their backs, while the wings of moths are in a tent shape with their abdomen hidden under their drab wings.

Butterflies and moths are also differentiated on the basis of their activities, such as whether they are diurnal, i.e., collecting food during the day, while moths are nocturnal flying insects, collecting their food at night, except in a few species. Butterflies are known to rest with their wings closed, while moths' wings are open.

Butterflies have long, thin antennae and moths have short, furry antennae.

In the third stage, butterflies are known to take the form of a chrysalis, and moths are known to take the form of cocoons. Butterflies are larger than moths and make up only 6-11% of the Lepidoptera order.

Moths constitute 89-96% of the order Lepidoptera. Butterflies have more colorful wings in comparison to moths' wings. The frenulum, a structure that links together wings of the moth, is present in moth species but is absent in butterflies.

What are threats to moths?

A few species of moths are pollinators, while a few of them are crop pests. In order to control these pests, many chemical and biological pesticides are being used, which is a major threat to the moth species. Another threat to the moth species is their habitat loss.

As of now, you must have acknowledged the fact that these moths have their own importance to humans in both positive and negative ways. Many moth species are known for pollination activities.

Among other pollinators such as butterflies, bees, and moths, some even reach out to flowers such as jasmine, honeysuckle, evening primrose, and American boneset at night, which are not pollinated by diurnal pollinators.

Mostly, moths are considered pests, and because of this reason, many pest control initiatives have been taken to control their infestation. At the same time, many pollinating moth species are also being targeted, which is affecting the night pollinating process.

Hawk moths are known to be diurnal and help in pollinating even during the daytime. Though not much has been researched about these nocturnal pollinators, many steps can be taken to save their declining population.

The very first thing to do is to save their habitat that is disappearing. Try to build a natural environment where moths can find their own peace.

Integrated pest management can be incorporated instead of usage of chemical control because, along with the crop pest, other pollinators are also affected. Try to switch off the lights in your garden areas and yards at night, as these artificial lights have been known to kill moths.

Plant more flowers for the moth species to pollinate in your nearby areas.

Types Of Moth Species Around The World

There are many different types of moth species around the world. Some of them are the Japanese silk moth, the tiger moth, the hummingbird hawk-moth, the peppered moth, the Luna moth, the brown-tail moth, the gypsy moth, the sphinx moth, and the Atlas moth.

These moth species are widely distributed throughout the world and belong to different families. A few moth families are the Arctiidae family, the Geometridae family, the Noctuidae family, the Saturniidae family, the Erebidae family, and the Sphingidae family.

Great tiger moths belong to the family of Erebidae and the subfamily of Arctiinae. These moths are a native species of North America, Europe, and Canada.

Larvae, caterpillars, and adults of these species live in cool climatic conditions and cannot thrive in a tropical climate. They can be found in grasslands and forest areas. Larvae and the caterpillar of the species feed on host plants such as the Plantago and the foxglove.

The hummingbird hawk-moth was first described by Carl Linnaeus in 1758 and introduced to the world. The moth belongs to the family of Sphingidae.

The moth is named after the hummingbird because it has a long tube-like proboscis similar to the hummingbird's to feed on the nectar of the flowers. They are widely distributed throughout Europe, Asia, and north Africa. Larvae of the hummingbird hawk-moth are green in color, while their pupae are brown in color.

The wingspan of this moth is 2 in (5 cm). Its wings are brown to orange in color.

The small emperor moth belongs to the family of Saturniidae, and scientifically, is called Saturnia pavonia. These moths have furry wings like a butterfly. Antennae of the male are furry, unlike that of the female.

The wingspan of this moth is 2.4 in (6 cm). The moth is mostly found in moorlands and heathlands.

They are native to the British Isles and the Palearctic region. The caterpillar has black, red, and yellow spots on its body that later turn green. These yellow, orange, and red spots make the caterpillar more patterned.

Apart from them, the Japanese silk moth and the royal moth belong to the family of Saturniidae. Japanese silk moths are called or named so because they produce silk threads.

Caterpillars of the species are green in color and are found in Japan. The Japanese silk moth is endemic to east Asia. These caterpillars feed on plants such as Rosa, Carpinus, and Crataegus.

The giant leopard moth belongs to the family of Erebidae. These moths are widely distributed and are native to the land of America. This moth has wings of white with black and brown marks on it. The wingspan of the moth is 3 in (7.6 cm).

They are well known among nocturnal species of the moth. The host plants of the caterpillar are lettuce, Persea, and Musa. The caterpillar is black in color and has a woolly coat on its body.

The brimstone moth belongs to the family of Geometridae and has yellow-colored wings with a brown borderline on its forewings. These moths feed on apple trees, rowan trees, birch, and willows. Caterpillars of this moth are well known to camouflage themselves in branches of trees.

These caterpillars' colors vary from light brown to beige. You might even spot them in your garden area. The brimstone moth is often confused with the common brimstone, which is a butterfly species.

The types of brown moths are found more in the family of Noctuidae, such as the ear moth, the Panthea coenobita, and the corn earworm. Most of the moth species in this family have dull-colored wings.

Noctuidae family moths are also called owlet moths and can be found in crop fields and garden areas. They are a native species of North America and Europe. They are mostly crop pests, and many steps have been taken by the government of these countries to control these crop pests.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for different types of moths, then why not take a look at different types of hamsters or gypsy moth fun facts for kids?

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Written by Anamika Balouria

Bachelor of Arts specializing in English, Bachelor of Education specializing in Secondary Education and Teaching, Master of Arts specializing in English

Anamika Balouria picture

Anamika BalouriaBachelor of Arts specializing in English, Bachelor of Education specializing in Secondary Education and Teaching, Master of Arts specializing in English

A dedicated and enthusiastic learner, Anamika is committed to the growth and development of her team and organization. She holds undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in English from Daulat Ram University and Indira Gandhi Institute for Open Learning respectively, as well as a Bachelor of Education from Amity University, Noida. Anamika is a skilled writer and editor with a passion for continual learning and development.
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Fact-checked by Pradhanya Rao

Bachelor of Commerce specializing in Marketing and HR

Pradhanya Rao picture

Pradhanya RaoBachelor of Commerce specializing in Marketing and HR

With a Bachelor’s degree in Commerce from Christ University, Bangalore, Pradhanya's passion for the English language and literature led her to explore the field of content writing, where she has gained extensive experience in writing, reviewing, editing, and fact-checking. She has also earned certifications in Google Ads Search, Google Ads Display, and Social Media Marketing, showcasing her proficiency in digital marketing.

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