Skip to Main navigation Skip to Left navigation Skip to Main content Skip to Footer

University of Minnesota Extension

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

butterfly with wings raised

By Super.lukas, CC BY-SA 2.5

Butterflies rest with their wings raised. They have slim bodies and antennae.

emperor moth with wings flat

By fir0002 /

Moths rest with their wings flat. Their bodies are usually fatter and are sometimes fuzzy.

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 can't 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.

  • © Regents of the University of Minnesota. All rights reserved.
  • The University of Minnesota is an equal opportunity educator and employer. Privacy