moth facts

Moth Physical Characteristics

  • Brown
  • yellow
  • Red
  • Black
  • white
  • orange
skin type

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Moths are an extremely diverse species, with more than 160,000 species worldwide, compared with 17,500 species of butterflies.

Most types of moths are nocturnal (nocturnal). During the day, they hide under leaves or find their way into dark attics or basements.

Fully grown moths feed on liquid foods, including tree sap, nectar, and even the juices of rotting fruit. These insects only live for an average of 40 days.

5 Interesting Moth Facts

Monarch moth on tree bark
While the Monarch Moth may not be the largest, it still maintains a wingspan of almost 6 inches!

© Betty Shelton/

• Some moths measure less than an inch, while other species have a wingspan of 11 inches.

• These insects carry pollen from flower to flower like butterflies.

• Males have an excellent sense of smell.

• The luna moth has no mouth and cannot eat, so it only lives about a week.

• When they see an electric light, it gets confused, disoriented and flies towards the light.

You can check out more fun facts about moths here.

evolution and origin

Who came first, the moth or the butterfly? Moths evolved earlier than butterflies. Moth fossils that have been found may be nearly 200 million years old.

Moths and butterflies are thought to have co-evolved with flowering plants, largely because modern species, both adults and larvae, feed on flowering plants.

In addition, the eggs of light-colored moths will turn into light-colored moths, and the eggs of dark-colored moths will turn into dark-colored adults. The dark color is caused by a DNA mutation in a moth.

scientific name

garden tiger moth
Gynnidomorpha alisman is the scientific name for these insects.

© David Havel/

Gynnidomorpha alisman is the scientific name for these insects. Moths belong to the class Insecta and belong to the family Saturnidae. Both moths and butterflies belong to the order Lepidoptera. This comes from the Greek and means scales (lepis) and wings (pteron).

There are thousands of subspecies of moths. Some examples include Gypsy-, Luna-, Isabella the Tiger-, Bella-, Ceremone-, Hummingbird-, Eagle-, Atlas- and Catmoth.

common moth types

  • Gypsy Moth – The gypsy moth has a cream to brown-gray body with dark brown zig-zag markings on its wings. Because they eat more than 500 different species of trees, shrubs and plants, they are considered one of the most destructive pests in the world.
  • Luna Moth – The luna moth has a white body and lime green wings. These moths are often preyed upon by bats, and as a defense mechanism, they twirl their elongated tails, which are believed to confuse the bats' echolocation.
  • Hummingbird Moth – With a bumblebee-like body, the hummingbird moth is often mistaken for a true hummingbird. This moth beats its wings up to 70 times per second and can fly at speeds of up to 12 miles per hour.
  • Atlas Moth – The Atlas Moth is one of the largest Lepidoptera insects with a wingspan of over 9 inches. Their bodies are small and their wings are reddish brown with black, white, pink and purple patterns.
  • Kitten Moth – The kitten moth is a hairy moth with a grayish-white body with black stripes and yellowish-gray wings. When attacked, these moths fight back, spewing formic acid from whips attached to their wings.

Also, here is the full list of moth species:

  • Indian mealworm
  • Gypsy Moth
  • peppered moth
  • atlas moth
  • domestic silk moth
  • African deadhead moth
  • Clothes moth
  • carpet moth
  • Bogong moth
  • diamondback moth
  • codling moth
  • Japanese silk moth
  • Uterospora
  • Polyphemus moth
  • king butterfly
  • yellow lotus
  • Ganges catfish
  • eucalyptus
  • white witch
  • oriental hawk moth
  • garden tiger moth
  • fall moth
  • Great Death Moth
  • Oak moth
  • Great Wax Moth
  • Bella moth
  • yellow bear
  • muslim moth
  • pale grass
  • purple tiger
  • corn earworm
  • isabella tiger moth
  • cinnabar moth
  • giant leopard moth
  • small wax moth
  • Ailanthus
  • eye moth
  • light brown apple moth
  • worm
  • ruby tiger
  • Salina Moth
  • hickory bush moth
  • Nivea Antarctica
  • white sable
  • oak eggplant
  • rose valet
  • european grain worm
  • scarlet tiger
  • Hübner wasp moth
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appearance and behavior

garden tiger moth
The moth's body is covered with scales that look like tiny hairs. Give them a furry look.

© David Havel/

The moth's body is covered with scales that look like tiny hairs. It has two antennae that look almost like tiny feathers attached to its head. They have one large wing and one small wing on each side of their body. They have six legs and two small black eyes designed for seeing at night.

The size of the moth depends on what type of moth it is. The Cecropia moth is the largest moth species in North America. It has a wingspan of five to six inches and weighs about two to three grams. A Cecropia moth with outstretched wings is about half the length of the wooden ruler you used at school. It weighs about the same as a small cotton ball.

Some of these insects, such as the Luna moth, have a wingspan of 2 to 4 inches, while very small insects, such as the pygmy moth, have a wingspan of only 4 mm. Put together three small grains of sand from the beach and you have the length of a pygmy moth!

The Atlas moth is one of the largest moths in the world, with a wingspan of over nine inches. A row of 16 nickels is about the size of the wingspan of an Atlas moth. The moth is about the same size as the Queen Alexandra swallowtail, the largest butterfly in the world. This butterfly lives in Papua New Guinea and has a wingspan of nearly ten inches.

The color of the moths also varies from species to species. For example, moths have white bodies. It has gray spots on its head and gray swirls on its wings. This moth gets its name because its furry scales make it look like a cat. Alternatively, male gypsy moths have dark brown scales while females have white and black scales.

The colorful patterns on this insect aren't just for show. The moth's colorful designs help it hide from predators. The horned moth's color makes it look like a brown leaf hanging from a tree. Brown gypsy moths blend easily into dark bark.

Sometimes, the presence of moths can scare off predators. For example, Lunar Hornet moths are very similar in appearance to bumblebees. Many predators see it and mistake it for a stinging insect! Not surprisingly, they kept their distance. Also, hummingbird moths (as the name suggests) look a lot like hummingbirds. As a result, many predators were fooled into believing it was a bird and not a moth.

These are solitary, shy insects. They have many predators, so they like to hide as much as possible.


moth on black background
Moths are found everywhere on Earth except in the polar regions.

© Fir0002 / Creative Commons

Moths are highly adaptable and live all over the world except the polar regions. There are more than 11,000 species in the United States and 160,000 species worldwide.

They need warmer climates to survive, so when the weather turns colder in winter, the moths migrate south. A moth that lives in the U.S. Midwest in summer migrates to Mexico before the weather turns cold. Sometimes, insects find their way into homes seeking shelter during the cold winter months.

Some moths fly long distances during migration. For example, a hummingbird hawkmoth left North Africa for the south coast of England when the weather turned cold.

Moths adapt to their environment in a number of ways. Their eyes reflect light so they can see best at night. Most of them spend the day in the woods or hide in vegetation. Their coloring and wing design help them blend into their surroundings (trees, foliage, bushes) during the day when they are most vulnerable to predators.

Read more  Butterfly


Moths eat sap, nectar, honeydew, and silk

Insects in the form of caterpillars are herbivores, eating the leaves of plants and sometimes fruit. Caterpillars can eat a large leaf every day. Fully grown moths drink nectar or sap for nourishment. Nectar is also a food source for butterflies.

Did you know that some insects don't eat at all? They don't eat because they don't have mouths! An example is the luna moth. This insect does not eat, so its lifespan is about a week. During that week, the insects mate to keep the species alive.

Moth caterpillars instinctively know which plants to eat. However, caterpillars may eat plants in the garden that have been sprayed with pest control poisons. When this happens, the caterpillar becomes sick and dies.

Predators and Threats

Are bats mammals?
Bats are one of the main predators of these insects.

©Rudmer Zwerver/

Bats are one of the main predators of these insects as both animals are nocturnal. Bats use echolocation (reflected sound) to find them and swoop down to grab them.

Moths can also become entangled in webs and eaten by spiders. If the insect flies close to the ground, it may also be eaten by the toad. Other predators include lizards and birds. Sometimes they are killed by pet dogs or cats.

These insects are attracted to porch lights, street lamps, and other lights that are lit around homes and buildings at night. Sometimes they fly into lights, many times they drop to the ground and are picked up by predators.

Reproduction, Babies and Longevity

winter moth caterpillar
The female moth lays her eggs on the plant, and she knows that once the eggs hatch, her babies can eat the plant.

© W. de Vries/

Females release a special chemical smell when they are preparing to mate. Males in the area smell the scent and go to her. After mating with the male, the female lays her eggs on the plant, knowing that her young will eat the plant once the eggs hatch into caterpillars.

The mother leaves her eggs and does not return. Most eggs hatch in about 10 days. The number of eggs this insect lays depends on her species. Some species lay 250 eggs, while others only 50.

Next, the eggs enter the larval or caterpillar stage. This phase lasts about seven weeks. Most caterpillars eat eggshells because it contains protein and other nutrients they need to grow. Then, they start chewing on the surrounding plant leaves.

Although caterpillars have limited vision, they can use their senses of touch, smell and taste to find more leaves to eat. They can walk up and down the leaves of plants. The caterpillar must eat leaves equivalent to 2,700 times its own body weight in preparation for the pupal stage.

The caterpillar enters the pupal stage by spinning the silk into a shell, or cocoon, and stays there until it becomes a moth. This phase lasts from three weeks to a month. The caterpillar's body feeds on plant leaves before entering the cocoon.

Once adult moths emerge from their cocoons, they live an average of 40 days. The exact lifespan of an insect depends on its species. Adult luna moths only live for a week, while dark moths can live for 3 to 5 months. Hummingbirds and hawkmoths can live for two to three months.


More than 160,000 species of these insects live around the world, yet their official protected status is threatened. Keep in mind that some of these insects are more vulnerable than others. For example, the garden tiger and ermine moth are classified as endangered due to loss of woodland habitat and food sources.

Like butterflies, bats and bees, moths are pollinators that help plants grow. In addition, they are a food source for various animals. They may be small animals, but they are important to our ecosystem!

Similar animals:

  • Comet Moths Want to learn more about moths? Find out why this moth was named after a celestial body.
  • Clothes moths Not all moths are suitable for life. Click here to learn about these closet eating moths.
  • Winter Moths Most moths need warm weather and migrate from colder regions. What about winter moth? Click here to find out.
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Moth FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

What is the Difference Between Moths and Butterflies?

There are some differences between moths and butterflies. One of the main differences is that moths are active at night while butterflies are active during the day.

Also, when perched on a flower or other surface, butterflies often place their wings behind their backs. Alternatively, the moth spreads its wings on both sides, making it look like a tent. Another difference is that moths have feather-like antennae in appearance, while butterflies have thin antennae with a small ball at the tip of each antennae. Moths have short and thick bodies while butterflies have long and thin bodies. Furthermore, the upper and lower wings of moths are joined together while the upper and lower wings of butterflies are separated.

Are moths carnivores, herbivores or omnivores?

Both moth caterpillars and adult moths are herbivores. Caterpillars eat plant leaves, while adult moths drink nectar and sap.

What is moth meal (dust)?

If you've ever caught a moth or butterfly, you probably got some powder or dust on your fingers. This dust consists of tiny scales on the wings of moths or butterflies. Losing some scales (which may look like tiny hairs) in the form of dust won't stop the moth or butterfly from flying again. However, if you're trying to catch a moth, try not to touch its wings so it doesn't lose any of its scales. Or, maybe just observe all of its amazing features from a few feet away.

What is the best moth repellant?

Moths are repelled by the scent of cedar. If you want to keep moths away from clothes in your closet or attic without using harmful poisons, spray the area with cedar oil or add some cedar blocks to your closet, attic, or other places where you think moths might congregate.

To which kingdom do moths belong?

Moths belong to the animal kingdom.

What phylum do moths belong to?

Moths belong to the phylum Arthropoda.

What class do moths belong to?

Moths belong to the class Insecta.

What order do moths belong to?

Moths belong to the order Lepidoptera.

What type of mulch do moths have?

Moths are covered in hair.

What type of habitat do moths live in?

Moths live in quiet forests and pastures.

What do moths eat?

Moths eat nectar, fruit and natural fabrics.

What are the natural enemies of moths?

Natural enemies of moths include birds, bats, lizards and spiders.

What is the average litter size for moths?

The average litter size of moths is 100.

What are some interesting facts about moths?

There are 250,000 different types of moths!

What is the scientific name of the moth?

The scientific name of the moth is Gynnidomorpha Alisman.

How many species of moths are there?

There are 9,000 species of moths.

How do moths give birth?

Moths lay eggs.

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  2. Tom Jackson, Lorenz Books (2007) Encyclopedia of World Animals
  3. David Burney, Kingfisher (2011) The Animal Encyclopedia of Kingfishers
  4. Richard Mackay, University of California Press (2009) Atlas of Threatened Species
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