Moth Identification

by Karen Bates
(last updated February 9, 2015)

When you look outside at night, odds are good that you'll see many moths hanging out around your porch light. If you pay close attention, you'll see that some of these moths look quite unique with different characteristics from one another. You will see a variety of sizes, colors, wing patterns, antennae, and other features on the moths that give them a distinct look.

Perhaps you are interested in learning how to identify the different kinds of moths you see often. You should know, however, that there are many kinds of moths and it would be overwhelming to try to memorize them all. Learning some of the basic moth families can give you a good idea of the kinds of moths out there, though. Next time you see a moth, check to see if it falls under any of these moth families:

  • Sphinx/Hawk Moths. These moths are fairly large with thick bodies.
  • Tiger Moths. Moths in this family are smaller. Their wings tend to be elongated in appearance and have bright markings and colors.
  • Owlet/Underwing Moths. This large moth family has a wide variety of moths within it, but many of them tend to be grey or brown in color.
  • Geometer Moths. These small to medium sized moths have wings that are broad and adorned with wave-like lines. They also have thin bodies.

Sometimes, it can be difficult to tell the difference between a moth and a butterfly since they tend to look quite similar. There are some distinct difference between the two, however. Butterflies usually have more slender bodies than moths, and their wings are often more colorful. Moths also have different antennae that may be feathery, and they are more likely to be out at night whereas butterflies will be out during the day time.

It can be helpful to be able to identify moths so that you know which kinds can be potentially harmful. For instance, some moths can destroy crops or clothing. Some types of harmful moths include clothing moths that do damage to fabrics, codling moths that can ruin fruit crops, and gypsy moths that hurt certain kinds of trees. In most cases, it is actually the larvae that do the damage and not the adult moths.

Although some moths are pests, it can be fascinating to observe and learn more about the different kinds of moths that you see often.

Author Bio

Karen Bates

An English student who enjoys writing and art, Karen has had her poetry published in her university's literary journal and has several novels in the works. ...


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