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Numbering at over 160,000 species worldwide, moths are some of nature’s most important pollinators. Moths and butterflies belong to the Lepidoptera insect order, and moths make up 89-94% of the species. There are a few easy distinctions you can look for to determine if you are looking at a moth or a butterfly.
The antennae are shaped differently with club-shaped antennae with a bulb on the ends. Moths have a feathery look with a jagged edge. Typically butterflies are more colorful, although many moths have beautiful colors. Moths shed scales that look like a powdery substance on your fingers if you touch them. It is natural for this shedding and does not affect the lifespan of the moth.
Moths generally fly at night, but some species do fly during the daytime. They also fold their wings differently. Butterflies fold them toward their backs, and moths fold them over their abdomen. The life cycle is similar, with one significant distinction in the transformation process. A moth caterpillar will build its cocoon out of silk-like substance. The butterfly caterpillar builds a hard chrysalis.
An important insect to ecosystems, pollinating more than any other insect, moths also pose problems for agriculture. For this reason, farmers use pesticides and herbicides to kill the moths and protect their crops. Runoff from the crops is endangering surrounding ecosystems and threatening the Lepidoptera population. Below you’ll find 10 of the largest moths in the world as measured by their wingspan.
#10: Splendid Royal Moth (Citheroma Splendens)
You can find this royal beauty along the north edge of Mexico and the lower parts of the United States. The mating season is a short July-August, having groups of 1-4 eggs at a time laid on a host leaf.
They are dark grey with red veins and white markings and prefer the tasty leaves of the wild cotton, manzanita, New Mexico evergreen sumac, and squawbush.
They will burrow in underground chambers in September for the pupa stage of the life cycle, re-emerging as a moth.
#9: Cecropia Silkmoth (Hyalophora Cecropia)
A beautiful specimen adorned with red, white, and yellow wings, black “eye” markings, and a frosted appearance on the wings. The abdomen has bands of red and white. This moth has a wingspan of 5 ⅞ inches and an adult lifecycle of 2 weeks.
Found East of the Rocky Mountains, these moths like the forests in the United States and Canada. The bolas spider can mimic the pheromones of a female cecropia and will use the scent to draw male moths into their webs. The moths mate from March-July and, in specific areas, will mate May-June, then repeat two weeks later.
#8: Agapema Oculea & Agapema Polyphemus
Reaching a wingspan of nearly 6 inches, the Agapema family has two very similar species. The Agapema oculea is tan with orange, blue, and black eyespots. There is a marginal black line, and there may be a yellow or red tint to the body. The Agapema polyphemus is reddish or yellowish-brown, while the underside has pink, brown, or rust markings.
The Agapena oculea has one mating in June-August and lives in oak woodlands and mixed forests of Southwestern United States. The Agapena polyphemus mates once in the Northern United States from May-July, twice in the middle regions from April-May and again in July-August, and several mating cycles throughout the Southern United States.
#7: Giant Silk Moths (Saturniids)
The giant silk moths include some species like: polyphemus moth (Antheraea polyphemus), luna moth (Actias luna), Columbia silk moth (Hyalophora columbia), and cecropia moth (Hyalophora cecropia), which we’ve already detailed.
The color variations go from shades of brown, orange and yellow forming “eye spots” in the polyphemus moth to bright green with pink/brown spots and tails on the hind wings in the luna moth, to dull, waxy green with rows of orange, yellow, or blue adorning the wings in the Columbia silk moth, to a brighter colored cecropia moth.
Each of these produces silk that is harvested and used in silk production in Asian and South American cultures. The colors vary from white silk to light brown, silvery brown, and brown, respectively.
These silk-producing moths have a wingspan of up to 6 inches and are native to deciduous rain forests and wooded areas. When it is mating time, the female moth will release pheromones for only 2-3 hours, attracting males from several miles away.
#6 Largest Moth: Royal Walnut Moth (Citheroma Regalis)
The Royal Walnut Moth reaches up to a 6 ¼ inch wingspan, and the larva has its own name, the hickory horned devil. This moth is native to the Southeast regions of the United States. An exciting coloring, the moth has grey-green wings with orange striping and a series of yellow dots. The body is orange with narrow yellow bands. This is a considerable change from the blue-green color of the moth in its caterpillar stage.
Mating only one generation per season, these moths prefer to lay their eggs on walnut, butternut, or hickory tree leaves. They will also use the leaves of persimmon, sweetgum, and sumacs. Some scientists believe that the larvae grow faster and larger on persimmon leaves.
#5: Imperial Moth (Eagles imperialis)
The imperial moth or Eagles imperialis is primarily yellow with pink/purple-brownish patches and spots. Its wingspan can be as large as 6 ⅞ inches. The adults do not feed. They take flight after sunrise and will mate after midnight on the same 24-hour cycle. The females lay their eggs on a leaf, sometimes a single egg, or in groups of 2-5 eggs. It takes about two weeks for the eggs to hatch.
The imperial moth can be found around parts of the United States and Canada. One main difference between males and females in the Imperial Moth is the antennae. The male antenna is quadripectinate, then narrowing down to a more simple singular-looking antenna. The female does not have the quadripectinate but only has a singular-looking antenna.
Most Imperial Moths emerge in late summer. This timing helps with their natural defense against predators. Their colors allow them to blend in with falling leaves that often share similar colorings. The moth is commonly found on the forest floor with the leaves. When you see these moths collected near lights, it will likely be the females who have already mated and laid their eggs.
#4: Giant Wood Moth (Endoxyla Cinera)
It is very unusual to find one of these mammoth-sized moths. The wingspan is measured at 9.8 inches and is said to be the heaviest moth globally, weighing in at just over an ounce. These moths exist along the coast of Queensland and New South Wales. Attracted to the softwood of a eucalyptus, the larval stage ranges from 1-3 years and has a purple and white banding. This coloring goes away as they mature.
The adult is grey and has a short life cycle, living only a few days before laying eggs and dying. The females do not eat and survive on reserves stored up while in the larva stage. The females do not fly well, so they are found resting on tree trunks or wooden objects like fence posts.
#3: Atlas Moth (Attacus Atlas)
If you are in Southeast Asia, you might run across an Atlas Moth. An intimidating wingspan of 10-12 inches brings this moth near the top of our list. The intricate colors and patterns on the wings include reddish-brown with white, black, pink, and purple designs. The underside is paler in color.
It is thought that these moths have a defense against predators strategy built into their colorful pattern. The tips of the wings resemble the heads of snakes, which would ward off enemies. During the caterpillar stage, they will spray secretions much like skunks when predators are nearby.
#2: White Witch (Thysania Agrippina)
Native to South America, Mexico, and Texas, the White Witch has a wingspan of 11.4 inches. A rare sight, primarily due to its ability to blend in with trees, the White Witch has a zigzag pattern with shades of brown, black, or grey. This beautiful moth is also called Birdwing Moth, Ghost Moth, Great Owlet Moth, and Great Grey Witch Moth. The life of a White Witch is 1-2 weeks.
#1 Largest Moth: Hercules Moth (Coscinocera Hercules)
This impressive species has a wingspan of 10.6 inches, with females growing up to 14.2 inches. That wingspan of over 14 inches makes Hercules moths the largest moth species in the world! They are located in North Queensland and New Guinea. The life span is a short 2-8 days since they do not have usable mouths to feed. They live long enough to mate and lay eggs.
In the caterpillar stage, the Hercules Moth grows up to 5 inches long and has fake eyes at the rear end to confuse its predators. Despite the short lifespan of this moth, they can live up to 2 years in the cocoon stage.
One of the goliaths of the insect world, the atlas moth is a gentle giant – but behind every oversized moth is a very hungry caterpillar. The atlas moth is among the biggest insects on the planet, with a wingspan stretching up to 27 centimetres across - that's wider than a human handspan.
The world's largest butterfly is the Queen Alexandra's Birdwing. It has a wingspan of 12 inches and is native to Papua New Guinea. The world's smallest butterfly is the Western Pygmy Blue. It has a wingspan of 0.5 to 0.75 inch and is native to the western U.S. The world's largest moth is the Atlas Moth.
There are some 160,000 species of moths in the world, compared to 17,500 species of butterflies. In the United States, there are nearly 11,000 species of moths. Distinctive characteristics.
Moths are generally peaceful creatures. They do not attack or try to hurt humans and they just keep to themselves. They do not bite or sting, unlike wasps, spiders, or ants. They do cause economic damages and are certainly a nuisance to have around the house.
The vast majority of adult moths don't have mouths and are incapable of biting anything, much less you. For the most part, they also don't sting. However, moths begin life as larvae, called caterpillars, before they go through a metamorphosis process and emerge with wings.
Both types of moths eat natural fibers found in clothing, carpet, drapes, upholstery and bedding. They'll eat wool, silk, cotton and any other natural fiber they can find. If they run out of clothing fibers, moths will even eat pet fur or chomp through synthetic materials to burrow into natural fibers underneath.
Polyphemus Moths (Antheraea polyphemus) are found in woodlands, urban/suburban areas and wetlands throughout North America.
Atlas moths are perhaps most famous for the markings on the upper corner of their wings, which bear an uncanny resemblance to cobra heads (in profile).
The Atlas moth, Attacus atlas, is also known as a "snake's head," due to the cobra-like design on it upper wings, which works as a defense from predation.
It lacks red blood cells and therefore the red color we typically associate with blood. However, they have veins that extend throughout their bodies and into their wings, as well as a main aorta that brings hemolymph up the center of their bodies and supplies their brains, bathing other organs along the way.
Adult moths may be eaten by birds or captured by harvestmen spiders, while moth caterpillars are also a common target of insect-eating bird and spider species. Moth pupae are often eaten by beetles and shrews, and parasitic wasps (parasitoids) attack moths at all stages of their life cycle.
Many moth species have stunning colors such as yellow, orange, pink, green, and red patterns. Some fascinating moth species can look like leaves or bark as they camouflage themselves on plants.
Tiger moth caterpillars curl up and play dead.
Moth caterpillars will sometimes eat leather and feathers -- and yes, even lint and hairballs of human or pet hair.
Only a few moths, butterflies, and caterpillars (order Lepidoptera) are edible. These include the maguey worm, silk worm, mopane worm, and bamboo worm. Other edible insects include ants, bees, mealworms, and palm grubs.
In the same way, moths are active at night and during the day moths hide and rest. Animals that sleep during the night, like most butterflies, are diurnal. Animals that sleep during the day, like most moths, are nocturnal.
With few exceptions, adult butterflies and moths eat only various liquids to maintain their water balance and energy stores. Most adults sip flower nectar, but other imbibe fluids from sap flowers on trees, rotting fruits, bird droppings, or animal dung.
Most moth species only ever eat leaves as larvae, and they suck nectar from flowers as adults. Only two moth species eat clothes, and that's when they're larvae. Moth adults can't “eat” anything because they lack a mouth. They can only drink juices.
It's true—there is a group of moths in the genus Calyptra that are known as vampire moths because they are capable of drinking blood. Vampire moths normally pierce fruit to suck the juice, but they will also drink blood from humans.
The moths were strikingly different, they could see colour – they could distinguish a spectral colour from any shade of grey – but they were unable to learn brightness.
The vampire moths belong to the genus Calyptra, which contains 17 species. The genus is contained within the subfamily Calpinae of the family Erebidae. The genus is also a member of the Calpini tribe. Eight species have been reported vampirizing mammals, including humans, in the wild, and two, Calyptra fletcheri and C.
Most nocturnally active moths are attracted to light, a phenomenon known as positive phototaxis. However, some species like the Old Lady (Mormo maura) tend to be repelled by it (they are negatively phototactic).
Under optimal conditions, most moth eggs hatch in about 10 days. The number of eggs a moth lays varies according to species. Some, such as the clothes moth, will lay roughly 40 eggs, while the gypsy moth may lay up to 1,000 eggs at a time.
They also consume animal products—leather and bristles, for example. Larvae, or young moths, will also eat paper, dust, and materials covered in oil. Clothes moths are also known to infest deceased insects, hair, and animal remnants that have dried out.
The largest moths in North America are cecropia moths (Hyalophora cecropia), which belong to family Saturniidae. These moths have an impressive wingspans of between 5 and 7 inches.
Clothes moths belong to a family called “Tineidae” or “fungus moths”, most of which feed as caterpillars on fungi, lichens and detritus – dead, organic material. Their caterpillars seem to prefer dark places and feed on fungi, rotting wood, feathers and even bat poo in Australia.
Musotiminae, Crambidae This recently described moth (originally from Thailand in 2005) is called the Lygodium Spider Moth because it feeds on Lygodium species, an invasive Old World climbing fern, and has markings that look like a spider (possibly mimicry to protect it from predators).
Spicebush Swallowtail and Tiger Swallowtail …. Actually, what look like eyes are not eyes at all. They are skin patterns called 'false eyes' – adapted by these caterpillars as a defense against predators. The actual eyes are located in the areas indicated by the green circles.
The moth drilled it's tongue through the skin and started drinking human blood. Vampire moths have been traced to a Central and Southern European species, Calyptra thalictri, individuals of this species are known to only feed on fruit. Entomologists believe that the Vampire Moth has evolved to feeding on blood vs.
The four eyes on the wings of the peacock butterfly (Inachis io) are an effective evolutionary defence mechanism, if the insect's wide distribution throughout Europe and temperate Asia is any indication.
|Genus:||Caligo Hübner, |
Owl butterflies of the genus Caligo are known for their huge eyespots, resembling the eyes of an owl. They are found in Central and South America, and Mexico, primarily in the rainforests.
After all, if you're camping out all night (as bugs always do), you're going to wake up covered in dew every once and awhile. This is a problem for butterflies and moths, due to those scales. So to answer the first question… yes, smaller insects can (and do) get trapped in water droplets and drown.
Moths don't live very long anyway, but you can provide it with a nice life for the time it does have left. Carefully catch the moth in the jar and place a piece of paper over the top to keep it inside the jar while you prepare a house.
Moths live an average of 1-6 months, depending on the species of moth. For example, the common brown house moth can live as long as four months, but silkworm moths only live a week or two. This is a surprisingly large range, and the lifespan of many moths depends on their individual genetic makeup as well.
Although the brain of a moth is smaller than a pinhead, we know a lot about the moth's nerve activity there. One of the most widely studied areas is the moth brain's primary smell centre: the antennal lobe.
Great question, Sita! The short answer is ants have something similar to blood, but scientists call it “haemolymph”. It is yellowish or greenish. In vertebrates (animals with backbones such as humans, cats, dogs, snakes, birds and frogs) blood's main job is to move important things around the body.
Ants do not breathe like we do. They take in oxygen through tiny holes all over the body called spiracles. They emit carbon dioxide through these same holes. The heart is a long tube that pumps colorless blood from the head throughout the body and then back up to the head again.
Frass - the name for insect poo and which looks like clumps of small grains – will often be found near the holes in an item or on the surface beneath where it is stored. Additionally with moth infestations cocoons and webbing (silk woven over the area the lava is feeding) are sometimes left behind.
Sound-producing moths have evolved a range of mechanisms to emit loud conspicuous ultrasounds directed toward mates, competitors and predators.
Do Moths Eat Bugs? Although you may think that all moths are herbivorous, in reality, many species actually have been documented to eat insects. Depending on the species, some moths may follow a meat-filled diet during their larval stage, while others may do so when they are fully grown adults.
It's called the rosy maple moth because of the color scheme of its body, which has sections that are rosy pink in hue, as well as its preferred habitat. These moths like to live in maple trees, which the South has in abundance. They can also be found on oaks.
Even though they're harmless as adults (mostly due to the fact they have no true mouth to bite you with), as larvae, the rosy maple moth can deliver a venomous sting!
There are 11,000 species of tiger moth in the world. They live in Canada, the United States, Europe, and Asia. This insect's brightly colored wings serve as a signal to predators that it has a sour taste and is poisonous.
* Atlas moth, with a wingspan of 30cm, is the largest moth in India and second largest in the world.
Queen Alexandra's Birdwing, the largest butterfly in the world with a wingspan of 30cm—at least 10 times the size of common butterflies—was discovered in Papua New Guinea in 1906. More than a century later, one of the world's rarest species has become the most endangered.
The Hercules moth is considered the second largest moth in the world in terms of wing size, and the third largest in terms of wingspan. Its wing size is second only to the Atlas moth found in South China. Females generally have a wingspan of 10.6 inches, while males have a wingspan of approximately 9.8 inches.
Thysania agrippina (Noctuidae: Catocalinae), the white witch moth, has the largest reported wing span of any lepidopteran. This neotropical species is reported to attain wing expanses of up to 280mm.