Difference Between Butterfly and Moth (With Table)

Insects belong to one of the largest groups of Arthropoda phylum. Insects belong to a wide range of groups. There are millions of insects on earth. Almost half of the million species are living organisms. Insects are found almost everywhere. They represent 90% of the living population. Insects hatch eggs go into the process of metamorphosis and then develop as an adult. Butterfly and Moth also belong to the group of insects.

Butterfly vs Moth

The difference between Butterfly and Moth is that butterflies are active during the daytime. While the moth is a nocturnal insect, i.e., active during nighttime. Talking about the resting position, there is a difference between the two. Butterfly test with their wings closed. While moths rest with their wings open. Antennae of Butterfly is different from moth. Butterflies have long ejected antennae. Moths have leaf, feathery antennae.

A butterfly is an insect that belongs to the family of Lepidoptera. Butterflies that develop into an adult have large colourful wings and fluttering flight. They develop into an adult via undergoing four stages, i.e., larvae, caterpillar, pupate, adult butterfly. Some of the butterflies require only tropics to undergo the whole stage. While some might require a whole year or several years to complete their life cycle. Butterflies play an important role culturally in the literary and visual arts. 

Moths are different from butterflies. But they also belong to the order of Lepidoptera. More than 16,000 species of moths have been discovered. There are many of the moths which are yet to be described according to their characteristics. Moths are nocturnal insects. But some of the species of moths are diurnal and crepuscular. Moths may develop into adult moths either through larvae or caterpillar stage. It is believed that they were evolved long before butterflies came.

Comparison Table Between Butterfly and Moth

Parameters of ComparisonButterflyMoth
Resting positionWings closedWings open
AntanneaeLong and thinLeafy and feathery
Eyesapposition eyesSuperposition eyes
PupaeShiny ChrysalisSilky cocoon

What is Butterfly?

The word butterfly comes from an Old Dutch and German language. The meaning of a butterfly is that bright yellow male of brimstone or an insect found at the time of summer and spring. The fossils of butterflies are very old, dating back to the period 200 million years ago, i.e. Triassic-Jurassic period. Butterflies belong to the family of Lepidoptera. The adult butterfly is characterised according to its four scale wings that give butterflies their colour.

Like every other insect, butterflies bodies are also divided into three parts, i.e., head, thorax and abdomen. Butterflies have a long, thin antenna looking like a club head. Almost all of the species of butterflies are diurnal. They have very vibrant, beautiful colours. When their wings are in the resting position, it is vertically over the head. They undergo four stages of metamorphosis to develop into an adult. The larvae and caterpillar of a butterfly have very hard heads that help them to cut their food like leaves.

Butterflies have the quality of camouflage. Some time their bright colours and projections may be toxic. Many of the species of butterflies are sexually dimorphic, which means that the sexes of the same species exhibit different characteristics. Butterflies are found almost everywhere on earth except in Antarctica. More than 18,500 species of butterflies have been discovered. Many butterflies migrate to large distances. However, it takes many generations of them to complete the trip. They use the sun as a compass to navigate.

What is Moth?

The word moth originates from the German and Old English languages. The meaning of moth is a maggot. Then in the 16th century, its meaning was changed entirely. Larvae and caterpillars of moths make shiny cocoons and then evolve into adult moths. Some of the moth caterpillars live underground until they are fully developed. It is believed that moths were developed earlier than butterflies, some 190 million years ago. The ancestor of moths is believed to be Archaeolepis mane.

Moths hold significance to humans because they are used as pests in agriculture. Bellworms and corn borers are its example. Gipsy moth caterpillars do much damage to the forests in the north-eastern US. African sugarcane borer is used as a major pest in sugarcane, sorghum and maize in Sub Saharan Africa. Moths are very notorious and are known for eating clothes and blankets that are made of silk and wool. Some of the moths are farmed for their economic value, like silkworms. Because larvae of silkworms are domesticated.

Larvae of other species of moths are used as a food in Africa because it is considered as an important source of nutrition. Congo is the country where single-handedly 30 species of moth larvae are harvested. It is produced for local markets as well as for transporting it to other nations. Many of the predators like owls, bats, lizards, amphibians, cats, dogs, rodents, and some bears, birds feed on moths. Moths are very much attracted to artificial lights. But the reason for it is still unknown.

Main Differences Between Butterfly and Moth

  1. Butterflies in their resting position close their wings. While moths open the wings and rest.
  2. The antenna of the butterfly is long and thing like a club head. Antanneae of the moth is leafy and feathery.
  3. The size of the butterfly is larger than the moth. The size of the moth is smaller than the butterfly.
  4. Butterflies have apposition eyes. Moths have a superposition eye.
  5. Pupae of butterflies are shiny chrysalis. Pupae of moths are silky cocoons.
  6. A frenulum is absent in butterflies. A frenulum is present in moths called a wing-coupling device.


Both butterfly and moth share the same characteristics like 3-part segmented body with 3 pairs of legs, one pair of antenna, an exoskeleton. Both belong to the same order, i.e. Lepidoptera. Both are colourful. Butterflies have a beautiful and vibrant colour. While moths have a dull and less vibrant colour.

There are striking patterns and designs present on the wings of a butterfly. Both undergo a process of metamorphosis. Butterflies from caterpillars spin a pupa that has hardened proteins. Moths spin a cocoon from silk pupa. Moths are active during the nights. Moths are used for many purposes by human civilizations. Butterflies are used culturally for artistic purposes.


  1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0079642514000772
  2. https://www.cabdirect.org/cabdirect/abstract/20023097521
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