- A-Z Animals
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.