Saturday, June 15, 2013


BUTTERFLIES and MOTHS have many things in common that many local are not sure which was the real one. As I study during my Entomology subject in university long time ago, both of this insects are mainly scales that cover their bodies and wings. These scales are actually modified hairs. Butterflies and moths belong to the order of Lepidoptera (from the Greek language that the meaning of words lepis are similar to 'scale' and 'pteron' meaning wing). During my lecture to many technical training course in many institutions, the different of both butterfly and moths are interesting subject to be discussed. Some say that there are the 'similar' words for two different insects and otherwise. However, below are some information I wrote in 
"Anim Agro Technology" about the differences between butterflies and moths base on few books and other sources. 

a) The Wings
Butterflies tend to fold their wings vertically up over their backs. Moths tend to hold their wings in a tent-like fashion that hides the abdomen. Butterflies are typically larger and have more colorful patterns on their wings. Moths are typically smaller with drab-colored wings.

b) AnatomyMoths have a frenulum, which is a wing-coupling device. Butterflies do not have frenulums. Frenulums join the forewing to the hind wing, so the wings can work in unison during flight.

c) BehaviorButterflies are primariy diurnal, flying in the daytime. Moths are generally nocturnal, flying at night. However, there are moths that are diurnal, such as the buck moth and there are butterflies that are crepuscular, that is, flying at dawn and dusk.

d) Cocoon or Chrysalis

Cocoons and chrysalides are protective coverings for the pupa. The pupa is the intermediate stage between the larva and adult. A moth makes a cocoon, which is wrapped in a silk covering. A butterfly makes a chrysalis, which is hard, smooth and has no silk covering.

As scientists discover and study new species of butterflies and moths, distinctions between the two is becoming blurred. Some moths may fool you into thinking that they are butterflies such as the Urania leilus, a colorful day flying moth from Peru. The Castnioidea moths, found in the neotropics, Malaysia, Indonesia and Australia exhibit many of the characteristics of butterflies such as brightly colored wings, clubbed antenna and day flying. More fascinating facts about butterflies and moths. There are many more species of moths than butterflies. Butterflies and skippers (hooked-shaped antennae) make up 6 to 11 percent of Lepidoptera order, while moths make up 89-94 percent of the Lepidoptera order. It is not true that if you touch a butterfly’s wing and the ‘powder’ rubs off that the butterfly will not be able to fly. The powder is actually tiny scales and a butterfly sheds these ‘scales’ throughout its lifetime. Butterflies and moths are holometabolous meaning that they undergo a complete metamorphosis from egg to caterpillar and from chrysalis to adult.

The largest known butterflies in the world are the birdwings. The Queen Alexandra Birdwing (Ornithoptera alexandrae) from the rain forests of Papua New Guinea has a wingspan of 11 inches. It is the most rare of all butterflies. The Goliath birdwing (Ornithoptera goliath), also from the rain forests of Papua New Guinea, is also one of the largest butterflies with an average wingspan of 11 inches. The smallest known butterflies are the blues (Lycaenidae), which are found in North American and Africa. They have wingspans from 1/4 - 1/2 inches. Western Pygmy Blue is the smallest. The most common butterfly is the Cabbage White found in Europe, North America, Africa, Asia, Australia, New Zealand, Bermuda, and Hawaii. The largest known moths are the Atlas moths (Saturniidae) with wingspans as large as 12 inches. The smallest known moths are from the pygmy moth family (Nepticulidae) with wingspans as small as 3/32 of an inch. This article I hope able to provide some basic information about the butterflies and moths as it was among well known insect in Malaysia. There are many butterfly parks constructed in Malaysia located at Kuala Lumpur, Melaka, Penang and many other cities for local visitors. 
M Anem
Senior Agronomist
Jalan Istana, Bandar Melaka,
Melaka, Malaysia.
(6 Syaaban 1434H)

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