Butterflies, and moths

Butterflies, and moths, are amongst the most prolific creatures on the planet.

A Brimstone Butterfly

So what are the differences between them?. Well the most obvious is that moths rest with their wings folded along their backs, butterflies  rest with them folded upright on their backs. Moths have feathery antennae, while butterflies have smooth ones.

Another point to help with identification is that most moths only fly at night.


A Comma butterfly, and a Burnet Six Spot moth (a day flyer)


The eggs are laid soon after mating, usually on the underside of the leaves that will feed the caterpillars. A few days later, the tiny larvae appear. The first thing they eat is usually the soft egg case.

Eggs on the underside of a Maple leaf.


The caterpillar stage is where the damage is done, and usually the first clue you have is the holes that appear in your leaves.

Caterpillars on a cabbage.


The often unseen stage between caterpillar, and butterfly is the pupae or chrysalis. This is the most vulnerable stage of the caterpillars life, and to pupate it will seek a place to hide, usually it will spin a cocoon of silk to hold it in place. The larvae of the Silk moth spins a large cocoon which is unwound, and spun into yarn.

During the process major changes take place in its internal structure, not least of which is the construction of a shell.

When ready, the caterpillars skin splits, and the chrysalis emerges, pale, and soft skinned at first, but soon hardening. This usually happens in the autumn, the adult emerging in the spring.

When the butterfly, or moth emerges from the chrysalis, its wings are crumpled, blood is pumped into them, erecting them.

An Ermine moth with partly erected wings

Allen. C. Roffey 23:01 09/09/2008 Tuesday, July 17, 2018 9:38