Is it a butterfly?

Butterflies belong to the Order Lepidoptera, which is Latin for “scaly wings”.

Moths also belong to the Order Lepidoptera and are quite often mistaken for butterflies. Many of their caterpillars can be found on garden plants. These caterpillars are also part of the garden’s biodiversity and provide food for visiting birds. The presence of a wide diversity of moths indicates that a healthy ecosystem in the garden is being maintained. The indiscriminate use of pesticides is a major cause of the decline of biodiversity in the urban environment, and will affect butterflies just as much as moths.


Some of the main differences between moths and butterflies are:

  • butterflies usually fly during the day; moths usually at night
  • butterfly caterpillars do not construct silk cocoons in which to pupate
  • moth antennae are usually either thread-like or comb-like, whereas
    butterfly antennae are usually clubbed on the ends (or ‘hooked’ in the case of the Skipper family of butterflies)
  • usually, butterflies rest with their wings folded together and upright
    above their body; moths with their wings folded back along
    their body in the shape of a long tent or pitched roof.


butterfly or moth

The key differences between butterflies and moths

Parts of a butterfly

Parts of a butterfly