Q: What is the difference between a butterfly and a moth?

A: Butterflies and moths are evolutionarily related group of insects, called lepidoptera, that share many characteristics, including having wings covered with scales.  The word lepidoptera means scaly (lepido) winged (ptera).  There are many families of moths and butterflies within the lepidoptera. (Hesperoidea) “butterflies”.

Many butterflies are very colorful and almost all butterflies are active exclusively during the day.  In contrast, most moths are fairly drably colored and are active at night.  But there are quite a few butterflies that are dull and quite a few moths that are brilliantly colored and fly during the daytime.  A better way to distinguish moths and butterflies is to look at their antennas.  Butterfly antennas are shaped somewhat like a golf “club” at its end. The vast majority of moths have antennas that are either simple filaments, tapering to a point at their ends, or are very complicated structures with many cross filaments, looking somewhat like radar antennas.

Q: How long does a butterfly live?

A: An adult butterfly probably has an average life-span of approximately one month.  In the wild, most butterflies lives are shorter than this because of the dangers provided by predators, disease, and large objects, such as automobiles.  The smallest butterflies may live only a week or so, while a few butterflies such as the Monarchs, Mourning Cloaks and tropical heliconians, can live up to nine months.

Q: How many kinds of butterflies are there?

A: There are approximately 20,000 species of butterflies in the world.  About 725 species have occurred in North America north of Mexico, with about 575 of these occurring regularly in the lower 48 states of the United States, and with about 275 species occurring regularly in Canada.  Roughly 2000 species are found in Mexico.

Q: Where do butterflies spend the night?

A: At night, or during inclement weather, most butterflies perch on the underside of leaves, crawl deep between blades of grass or into a crevice in rocks, or find some other shelter, and sleep.

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