Which is a moth, and which is a butterfly?

Ken Hayes

They both have wings, are colourful, and flutter around Brockholes at this time of year. But how can you recognise a butterfly from a moth?

What's the difference?

One of the easiest ways to tell the difference between a butterfly and a moth is to look at the antennae. A butterfly’s antennae are club-shaped with a long shaft and a bulb at the end. A moth’s antennae are feathery or saw-edged.

Butterflies and moths have many things in common, mainly scales that cover their bodies and wings. These scales are actually modified hairs. 

Wings

Butterflies tend to fold their wings vertically up over their backs. Moths tend to hold their wings in a tent-like fashion that hides the abdomen.

Butterflies are typically larger and have more colorful patterns on their wings. Moths are typically smaller with drab-colored wings.

Behaviour

Butterflies are primarily diurnal, flying in the daytime. Moths are generally nocturnal, flying at night. However, there are moths that are diurnal, such as the buck moth and there are butterflies that are crepuscular, that is, flying at dawn and dusk.

See what you can spot this National Moth Week

Courting Common Blue Butterflies - Ian McGill