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Extension > Youth Development > Minnesota 4-H > Projects > Environmental & Earth Science > Entomology > Bug Camp > Butterflies

Yellow Medicine County Bug Camp

How to tell a butterfly from a moth

Butterflies and moths are in the same order (Lepidoptera, which comes from the Greek words lepidos for scale and pteron for wings). Many people have trouble telling them apart, but once you know what to look for, it's easy to tell which is which.

Butterflies have skinny antennae with knobs or clubs on the ends. Many moths have feather-like antennae, or thread-like antennae without knobs.

When resting, butterflies close their wings high above their backs, but canĀ¹t fold them. Moths fold their wings down on top of their backs at rest.

Butterflies usually have long slender bodies. Moths have fat, often fuzzy bodies.

You won't see butterflies flying around at night or many moths active during the day.

The third life stage (pupal stage) of a butterfly is a smooth chrysalis. A moth spends its pupal stage in a cocoon spun with silk.


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