Moth

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.

Moth Scientific Classification

Animalia
Arthropoda
Insecta
Lepidoptera

Types of Moths

List of Common Types of Moth Species

It is 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:

  • Comet Moth
  • Lime Hawk-Moth
  • Twin-Spotted Sphinx Moth
  • Oleander Hawk-Moth
  • Io Moth
  • Garden Tiger Moth
  • Gallium Sphinx Moth
  • Rosy Maple Moth
  • Dysphania Militaris Moth
  • Cecropia Moth
  • Noctuidae Moth
  • Giant Leopard Moth
  • Emperor Moth
  • Rothschildia aurota
  • White-lined Sphinx Moth
  • Luna Moth
  • Giant Atlas Moth
  • Pellucid Hawk-Moth
  • Elephant Hawk-Moth
  • Japanese Silk Moth
  • Angle Shades Moth
  • Annulet Moth
  • Antler Moth
  • Ashworth’s Rustic Moth
  • Barberry Carpet Moth
  • Barred Hook-tip Moth
  • Box-tree Moth
  • Bordered White Moth
  • Brimstone Moth
  • Brown-tail Moth
  • Buff-tip Moth
  • Blotched Emerald Moth
  • Bordered Gothic Moth
  • Common Carpet Moth
  • Clouded Buff Moth
  • Clouded Border Moth
  • Common Swift Moth
  • Dusky Hook-tip Moth
  • Dotted Chestnut Moth
  • Dew Moth
  • Dark Bordered Beauty Moth
  • Five-spot Burnet Moth
  • Feathered Thorn Moth
  • Frosted Orange Moth
  • Flame Shoulder Moth
  • Gold Swift Moth
  • Ghost Moth
  • Galium Carpet Moth
  • Gypsy Moth
  • Grass Wave Moth
  • Grass Rivulet Moth
  • Hornet Moth
  • Heart Moth
  • Humming-bird Hawk-Moth
  • Jersey Tiger Moth
  • July Belle Moth
  • Lichen Button Moth
  • Large Emerald Moth
  • Licorice Piercer Moth
  • Mint Moth
  • Magpie Moth
  • Marbled Clover Moth
  • March Moth
  • Mother of Pearl Moth
  • Orchard Ermine Moth
  • Oak Beauty Moth
  • Oak Lutestring Moth
  • Peach Blossom Moth
  • Pine-tree Lappet Moth
  • Pretty Pinion Moth
  • Purple Thorn Moth
  • Raspberry Clearwing Moth
  • Ruby Tiger Moth
  • Red Underwing Moth
  • Scalloped Oak Moth
  • Small Emerald Moth
  • Scarlet Tiger Moth
  • Silver Barred Moth
  • True Lover’s Knot Moth
  • Transparent Burnet Moth
  • White Ermine Moth
  • Winter Moth
  • Willow Beauty Moth
  • Yellow Horned Moth
  • Yellow Belle Moth
  • Peppered Moth

Moth

Physical Description and Appearance

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.

Moth Images

Distribution

Moths are 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, and wetlands.

How long do they live

The lifespan 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.

Moth Cocoon

What do they eat

Adult moths 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.

Behavior

  • Moths navigate by flying on a fixed-angle path relative to distant celestial objects like stars and the Moon.
  • They vibrate their wings for heating their flight muscles because they cannot use the Sun’s energy as they are mostly nocturnal insects.
  • Moths 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.
  • Moth larvae (called caterpillars) produce cocoons, the pupal stage from which the mature moths with fully-developed wings emerge.
  • Some caterpillars dig up holes in the ground and live there until they are ready to transform into adults.
Moth Caterpillar

Adaptations

  1. Their 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.
  2. Moths 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 larger.
  3. Certain 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.

After mating 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.

Moth Larva

Moth-FAQs

1. Where do moths come from?

Moths 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 caddisflies.

2. Do moths bite?

No, most moth species found in homes do not bite people.

3. Do moths eat clothes?

The larvae of Tineidae moths eat clothes made from natural fibers like silk or wool.

4. Are moths poisonous?

Yes. Some 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?

Moths are preyed upon by insectivorous animals like some species of bats, owls, lizards, rodents, cats, dogs, and bears.

Moth Bug

Interesting Facts

  • 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).