What are the differences between Moths and a Butterflies?

by Russ on April 26, 2014

Butterflies such as this Swallowtail, normally hold their wings out at the side in a straight line.

Butterflies and moths must be some of the most stunning insects in the UK.

Butterfly antennae are normally slight and thin in comparison to the moth.

Their flashy colours can range from marbled browns to fluorescent pink!

But what are the differences between a butterfly and a moth?

Both insects are part of the same family – Lepidoptera. This is a large family of insects that are closely linked to the pollination of flowering plants.

Across this family, the main differences are:

  • When landed, moths will usually hold the wings behind their bodies, just like this day-flying Wood Tiger Moth.Butterflies mainly fly in the day whereas moths fly mainly at night
  • Butterflies are usually colourful whereas moths are usually small and dull looking
  • Butterflies normally hold their wings out at the side when landed, moths hold them behind their backs
  • The antennae of moths are large and hairy, but small and spindly on the butterfly

None of these points are without their exceptions however. A number of moth species fly in the day and as a result are very brightly coloured, such as the Wood Tiger Moth to the right.

But generally, these points will help you distinguish between a butterfly and moth. Now all that is left to do is to get out there and find some Lepidoptera!

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