Moth vs Butterfly, How To Tell Them Apart

Moths VS butterflies…

There are about 160,000 species of moths compared to about 17,500 species of butterflies. So, if you can’t tell the difference between a moth and a butterfly, don’t worry – you’re not alone! These two groups of insects are often mistaken for one another because they share many similarities.

Butterfly on flower moth on tree

Let’s check out a few classic differences in each so you can impress your friends and family next time you see one of these amazing insects.

Butterfly Antenna VS Moth Antenna

Butterflies typically have longer thinner antenna, wire-looking with a small ball at the end.

Differnces between Butterfly antennae and Moth Antennae

Moths usually have shorter fuzzy or saw-looking antennas

Moth Caterpillar VS Butterfly Caterpillars

There is some gay area when it comes to telling the type of caterpillar. However, there are a few differences we can look at to tell them apart.

Butterfly caterpillars are smooth and do not have hair or fuzz but may have horns or bumps

Many moth caterpillars tend to be fuzzy or hairy, which is the easy way to tell it’s a moth caterpillar. However, some moth caterpillars are smooth or have horns or bumps just like butterfly caterpillars.

Time of day

Butterflies prefer daytime eating and frolicking and hiding in tree leaves at night.

Moths are nocturnal, which means they are most active at night. you may see a moth flying around during the day but moths prefer to hang out on tree trunks during the day. This is because moths are attracted to light, while butterflies are not.

Butterfly VS Moth Pupa Stage

Butterfly Chrysalis

  • Chrysalis is the last molt for the caterpillar
  • chrysalis is like a hard shell to protect the pupa during the transformation
Differences between Butterfly chrysalis vs Moth cocoon

Moth Cocoon

  • Moths spin a web around themselves.

Butterfly Wings VS Moth Wings

Butterfly Wings

  • Butterflies tend to rest their wings up or over their body
  • Brightly colored wings to blend in with flowers
Differences between Butterfly vs Moth wings

Moth Wings

  • tend to lay flat along their back
  • wings colors tend to be brown or neutral color to blend into tree trunks

Body Shape

Butterflies tend to look lean with a rather slender abdomen. Butterflies also tend to have long, thin legs and a fragile look.

Moths, on the other hand, tend to look, stalkier with a larger abdomen. Even the moth’s legs tend to look thicker and maybe furry. Overall moths appear to be more durable.


Of course, there are exceptions in every insect family, and butterflies and moths are no different. Looking for the classic signs of each should help you identify if it’s a butterfly or a moth.

Next time you see a butterfly or moth check it out closely, what features you see?

butterfly on flower eating

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one Butterfly flying and one sitting on flower