Types of Moths
Types of Butterflies
Moths, like butterflies, belong to the Lepidoptera family.
In terms of population size, Smithsonian Institution estimates place the number of moth species in the eleven thousand range.
With approximately six hundred butterfly species found in the United States, the number of moth species far surpasses the number of butterfly species.
Because of the population differences, the types of moths found in the United States fit into a larger number of families, approximately forty, compared to their butterfly relatives. Seven of the more easily recognized moth families are:
- Clearwing Moths: Family Sesiidae - Clearwing Moths have transparent wings and resemble wasps with long feathery antennae. They are active during the day and nectar on flowers.
- Clothes Moths: Family Tineidae - Most of the species in this family feed on materials other than the basic caterpillar food, plants. Two particular species, the Clothing Moth (Tineola bisselliella) and the Case-bearing Clothes Moth (Tinea pellionella) are identified as the pests that eat fibers such as wool from sweaters.
- Giant Silk Moths: Family Saturniidae - This family contains the The Atlas moth (Attacus atlas). Found in Southeast Asia, it is considered the world's largest moth.
- Inchworm Moths: Family Geometridae - A family of moths named for the manner in which the caterpillars move.
- Sphinx Moths: Family Sphingidae - A number of moth species in the family are called hummingbird moths because they fly during the day, and they hover while nectaring at flowers.
- Tent Caterpillar Moths: Family Lasiocampidae - The caterpillars of the family build and live in large, silk tent structures attached to tree limbs. Different species can be found around the United States. They are often considered pests because the caterpillar colonies are capable of consuming all the leaves from the host tree. The top picture shows a tent with its caterpillar colony.
- Tiger Moths: Family Arctiidae - This family is known for its woolly bear caterpillars.
Despite the differences in population levels, all the moths and butterflies found in the United States undergo a similar metamorphosis, from egg to caterpillar to pupa (chrysalis) to adult.
The links in the box provide additional Lepidoptera information. The Moth Pictures link provides pictures and details of a variety of the most colorful and/or unusual moths found in the United States.
© 2008. Patricia A. Michaels