Butterfly or Moth? Can You Tell the Difference?

Nathan Riggs

Butterflies and moths are sometimes confused with one another. There’s one easy way to tell them apart:  look at the antennae. Butterfly antennae will end with either a knob or a hook, while moth antennae end in a point or with a feathery appearance.

Butterflies rest at night and fly during the day, while most moths fly at night. A few of the moths, especially sphinx moths, fly during the day and visit flowers for nectar or lay their eggs on host plants.

If you’re not a bug fanatic (or if you are), a great tool for identifying butterflies can be found at Gardens with Wings website, which offers two ways to ID butterflies:

  • Select the Identify Butterflies link at the top of the page and enter the characteristics of the butterfly you’d like to identify. You can also look up common names by first letter.
  • Enter your zip code in the upper right portion of the home page and the site will provide a list (pictures included) of the most common butterflies found in your area.

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