Moth or Butterfly—How Can You Tell?
CAN you tell the difference at first glance? Perhaps you pick out a butterfly because of its pretty colors and its seemingly endless motion—flitting from flower to flower, settling for a moment here, with its wings flicking up and down, then nervously moving to its next source of food. What a test of patience for any keen photographer! Another distinguishing feature is the threadlike antennae that terminate in a knob.
But what about the moth? Well, you don’t see many of those in the daytime. They are primarily nocturnal creatures. Their colors are usually darker. Their bodies are thick, and their antennae are feathery, which helps them to locate the scent of a female even at a great distance. The one pictured here is the Polyphemus moth, found all across the United States. Because of the large eyelike spots on its hind wings, it was named after the Greek mythological one-eyed Cyclops called Polyphemus. Its wingspan can be anywhere from 3.5 to over 6 inches [9-15 cm], still small compared with some moths.
There are more than 112,000 known species of butterflies and moths, according to Grzimek’s Animal Life Encyclopedia. Their wings are “covered above and below with very small scales . . . that produce the magnificent colors and patterns often seen.” As any lepidopterist (one who studies butterflies and moths) will tell you, they are fascinating creatures. Their design, variety, and incredible metamorphosis make them worthy of study, not just for a present lifetime, but for an everlasting lifetime!
[Pictures on page 25]
Polyphemus moth photographed in Luverne, Alabama, U.S.A., shown here life-size
The feathery antennae help the male locate the female