Moths are groups of mostly nocturnal insects that share the order Lepidoptera with butterflies. They usually have threadlike or feathery antennae in contrast to butterflies that possess thin antennae with small clubs or balls at the end.
estimated that about 160,000 moth species currently exist, out of which nearly
11,000 species are found in the US, and many of these are yet to be described
by scientists. Here are some of the different types of moth species that are
commonly found today:
Size: Moths vary in size depending on the
species. The largest species is Atlas moth with a wingspan of about 25-30 cm
and a wing surface area of nearly 400 cm2 while the smallest
Nepticulidae moths have a wingspan of approximately 0.25 cm.
Color: They typically have dull coloring
with drab-colored wings.
Body: Their body is larger and bulkier as
compared to butterflies and is covered with dust-like scales.
Wings: Their forewings are joined to the hind wings by a frenulum, a small fold of tissue. This coupling of wings allows them to work in unison when they are flying.
found all across the globe, occurring on all the continents except Antarctica. Although
their population is higher and more diversified near the tropics, some moth
species exist at the limits of Arctic vegetation.
What kind of Habitats are they found in
They can adapt
to nearly every environment, from high mountaintops and deserts to salt
marshes. Moths typically live in mangroves, grasslands, lowland forests, dunes,
How long do they live
of moths varies significantly depending on the species. An adult brown house
moth typically lives for 2-4 months while the hawk moths have an average
lifespan of 3 months. The yucca moths are the shortest-lived, surviving for
only two days after metamorphosis.
What do they eat
eat only liquids for maintaining their water balance. While most species sip
nectar from flowers, others take sap from trees and fluids from rotting fruits,
animal dung, or bird droppings. The larvae of several moth species like tineid
moths feed on fabric, including blankets and clothes made from silk or wool.
navigate by flying on a fixed-angle path relative to distant celestial objects
like stars and the Moon.
vibrate their wings for heating their flight muscles because they cannot use
the Sun’s energy as they are mostly nocturnal insects.
display positive phototaxis, meaning they move toward artificial lights. It is
because they use the light source for navigation and attempt to correct their
flight path by getting closer to the light.
larvae (called caterpillars) produce cocoons, the pupal stage from which the
mature moths with fully-developed wings emerge.
caterpillars dig up holes in the ground and live there until they are ready to
transform into adults.
streamlined abdomen, along with narrow wings, allows them to fly quickly for an
extended period. The hawk-moths, for example, fly with a top speed of 30 mph
while others can hover steadily over a flower, like hummingbirds.
blend into their natural environment to keep themselves safe from predators.
Several moth species like the peppered moth mix with their surroundings by assuming
the form and color of a twig. Other species, such as the polyphemus moth has
large eye-like markings that trick predators into believing that it is much
species like the yucca moth display mutualistic behavioral adaptation and
coevolve with yucca plants. These flowers can only be pollinated by yucca
moths, which lay their eggs and the caterpillars develop inside the ovary where
they feed on the seeds.
How do they Reproduce and Mate
Adult moths attract
potential mates by releasing pheromones. After locating his mate, the adult male
pursues the female until she moves down to the ground. The male moth moves his
antennae, flaps his wings, and releases pheromones. He then mounts the female,
with the mating process being very brief.
successfully, females lay eggs singly or in batches inside plant tissues, drop
them from the air, or attach them to objects. In colder regions, the eggs hatch
either in summer or spring. Depending upon the species, the availability of
food, and the temperature, it takes about 15 days to 2 years for the eggs to
transform into adult moths.
1. Where do moths come from?
originated long before the butterflies, with fossils found that are
approximately 190 million years old. Scientists believe that moths first
appeared along with flowering plants, with Archaeolepis
mane being the earliest ancestor of moths having scaled wings just like
2. Do moths bite?
moth species found in homes do not bite people.
3. Do moths eat clothes?
of Tineidae moths eat clothes made from natural fibers like silk or wool.
4. Are moths poisonous?
species like the six-spot burnet moth produce cyanide-based compounds to create
different forewing markings, signaling predators to leave them alone.
5. Are moths nocturnal?
Not all moth
species are nocturnal. Some species like the sphinx moths are diurnal or crepuscular.
6. What predators may eat moths?
preyed upon by insectivorous animals like some species of bats, owls, lizards,
rodents, cats, dogs, and bears.
Because it causes damage to forests, the gypsy moth caterpillar is an invasive species in the northeastern US.
The African sugarcane borer is a severe pest of maize, sugarcane, and sorghum in sub-Saharan Africa.
Some moth species like the domestic silkworm, Assam silk moth, Japanese silk moth, and Chinese silk moth are farmed for the silk which they use for building their cocoons.
The larvae of several moths, such as the saturniids, are used as foods in southern Africa.
Moth larvae that infest clothes can be killed by freezing the items for a few days at temperatures below 18 °F (-8 °C).