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Moth Facts

Common NameMoth
Scientific NameGynnidomorpha Alisman
Size0.6-30cm (0.2-12in)
Number Of Species9,000
Average Lifespan40 days
Conservation StatusThreatened
ColourRed, Black, Yellow, Orange, Brown, White
Skin TypeHair
Favourite FoodNectar
HabitatQuiet forests and pastures
Average Litter Size100
Main PreyNectar, Fruits, Natural Fabrics
PredatorsBirds, Bats, Lizards, Spiders
Special FeaturesLong, curled tongue and delicate, patterned wings

Moth Location

Map of Moth Locations


Moths are an extremely diverse species with more than 160,000 different types in the world, while there are only 17,500 species of butterfly.

Most types of moths are nocturnal (active at night). During the day, they hide under the leaves of trees or find a way to get into a dark attic or basement of a home. Fully-grown moths survive on a liquid diet of tree sap, flower nectar, and even juice from a piece of rotting fruit. Moths only live an average of 40 days.


5 Interesting Moth Facts

• Some moths measure less than an inch while other species have a wingspan of 11 inches.
• Moths move pollen from flower to flower just like butterflies.
• Male moths have an excellent sense of smell.
• A luna moth doesn’t have a mouth and can’t eat, so it only lives about a week.
• When a moth sees an electric light it gets confused, loses direction, and flies into the glow.


Moth Scientific Name

Gynnidomorpha alisman is the scientific name for a moth. Moths belong to the Insecta class and are in the Saturniidae family. Both moths and butterflies belong to the order of Lepidoptera. This comes from Greek words meaning scale (lepis) and wing (pteron).

There are thousands of subspecies of moth. Some examples include the gypsy moth, Luna moth, Isabella tiger moth, Bella moth, cecropia moth, hummingbird moth, hawk moth, Atlas moth, and the puss moth.


Moth Appearance and Behavior

A moth’s body is covered in scales, that look like small hairs. It has two antennae that look almost like small feathers attached to its head. Moths have one large wing and one smaller wing on both sides of their body. They have six legs and two tiny dark eyes designed to see things at night.

The size of a moth depends on what type of moth it is. A Cecropia moth is the largest species of moth in North America. It has a wingspan of five to six inches and weighs around two or three grams. A Cecropia moth with its wings spread out would be equal to half the length of a wooden ruler you may use in school. Its weight would be equal to a small cotton ball.

Some moths like the Luna moth have a wingspan of two to four inches whereas a really tiny moth, such as the pigmy moth, has a wingspan of just four millimeters. Put three tiny grains of sand from the beach together and you have the length of a Pigmy moth!

An Atlas moth is one of the largest moths in the world with a wingspan of a little over nine inches. A line of 16 nickels is about equal in size to the wingspan of an Atlas moth. An Atlas moth is about the same size as the world’s largest butterfly, Queen Alexandra’s birdwing. This butterfly lives in Papua New Guinea and has a wingspan of almost ten inches.

The color of a moth also varies depending on its species. For instance, the body of a puss moth is white. It has gray spots on its head and gray swirling designs on its wings. The puss moth earned its name because its scales are furry making it look like a cat. Alternatively, a male Gypsy moth has dark brown scales, while a female’s scales are white and black.

The colorful designs on a moth’s body aren’t just for show. A moth’s colorful design can help it to hide from predators. The color of an angle shades moth allows it to look exactly like a brown leaf hanging from a tree. A brown Gypsy moth can easily blend in with the dark bark of a tree.

Sometimes a moth’s appearance can scare a predator away. For example, a Lunar Hornet moth’s appearance is remarkably similar to a hornet. Many predators see it and mistake it for an insect that can sting! Not surprisingly, they keep their distance. In addition, a hummingbird moth (like the name says) looks a lot like a hummingbird. So, many predators are fooled into believing it's a bird and not a moth.

Moths are solitary, shy insects. They have many predators, so they like to remain hidden whenever possible.


moth - Gynnidomorpha alisman - moth with brown, pink, and yellow coloring


Moth Habitat

Moths live all around the world. There are more than 11,000 species of moth in the United States and 160,000 species worldwide.

They need a warm climate to survive. So, they migrate south when it grows cold in the wintertime. A moth living in the midwestern part of the United States during the summertime migrates to Mexico before the weather turns cold. Sometimes moths will make their way into homes to get shelter during the cold winter months.

Some moths fly a very long distance during migration. As an example, a hummingbird hawk moth leaves North Africa when the weather turns cold and makes its way to the southern coast of the United Kingdom.

Moths adapt to their environment in several ways. They have eyes that reflect the light so they can see best at night. Most moths spend the daytime in the woods or hiding in vegetation. Their color and wing design helps them blend into their surroundings (trees, leaves, bushes) when they are most vulnerable to predators during the daytime hours.


Moth Diet

Moths in caterpillar form are herbivores that eat the leaves of plants and sometimes fruit. A moth caterpillar may eat one large leaf per day. A fully-grown moth drinks flower nectar or sap for nourishment. Nectar is the food source of butterflies as well.

Did you know that some moths don’t eat at all? They don’t eat because they don’t have a mouth! One example is the luna moth. This moth doesn’t eat, so its lifespan is about one week. During that week, this moth mates to keep the species alive.

Moth caterpillars instinctively know which plants to eat. However, a moth caterpillar may eat plants in a garden that have been sprayed with pest control poison. When this happens, the caterpillar becomes sick and dies.


Moth Predators and Threats

Bats are one of the main predators of moths because both animals are active at night. A bat uses echolocation (reflected sound) to find moths and swoop down to grab them. Moths also become caught in spider webs and are eaten by spiders. If a moth flies near the ground, it could also be eaten by a toad. Other predators include lizards and birds. Sometimes a moth can be killed by a pet dog or cat.

Moths are attracted to porch lights, streetlights, and other lights that come on around houses and buildings at night. Sometimes they fly into the lights, so many times they fall to the ground and are picked up by a predator. Also, when moths invade the closets or wardrobes in a home, the people living there may call a pest control company or use other poisons to kill them.

The official conservation status of moths according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is threatened, although some species are more at risk than others.


Moth Reproduction, Babies, and Lifespan

A female moth releases a particular chemical scent when she is ready to mate. Male moths in the area pick up this scent and go to find her. After mating with a male, the female lays eggs on a plant that she knows her babies can eat once the eggs hatch into caterpillars. The mother leaves her eggs and doesn’t return. Most moth eggs hatch in about 10 days. The number of eggs laid by a moth depends on her species. Some species of moths lay 250 eggs while others lay only 50.

Next, the moth egg enters the larval or caterpillar stage. This stage lasts about seven weeks. Most caterpillars eat the shell of their egg because it contains protein and other nutrients they need to grow. Then, they start to chew on the plant leaves all around them.

Though caterpillars have limited eyesight, they use their sense of touch, smell, and taste to find more leaves to eat. They can walk around on the leaves of the plants. Caterpillars must eat leaves equaling 2,700 times their own body weight to prepare for the pupal stage.

A caterpillar moves into the pupal stage by spinning silk into a shell, or cocoon, where it stays until it becomes a moth. This stage lasts three weeks to a month. The caterpillar’s body lives on the plant leaves it ate before going into its cocoon.

Once the moth emerges from its cocoon as an adult, the average lifespan is 40 days. The specific lifespan of a moth depends on its species. An adult luna moth lives for just one week while a puss moth can live for 3 to 5 months. Hummingbird moths and hawk moths can live for two or three months.


Moth Population

There are more than 160,000 types of moths that live throughout the world, however, the official conservation status of moths is threatened. Keep in mind that some moths are more at risk than others. For example, the garden tiger moth and white ermine moth are categorized as endangered due to the loss of their woodland habitat and food sources.

Along with butterflies, bats, and bees, moths are pollinators helping plants to grow. Also, moths are a food source for a variety of animals. They may be small creatures, but they are important to our ecosystem!


Moth FAQ


What is the difference between a moth and a butterfly?

There are a few differences between moths and butterflies. One of the main differences is moths are active at night while butterflies move around during the daytime.

Also, when resting on a flower or other surface, a butterfly usually puts its wings together over its back. Alternatively, a moth spreads its wings out at its sides making it look like a tent. Another difference is a moth’s antennae have a feather-like appearance while a butterfly has thin antennae with a tiny ball on the tip of each one. A moth’s body is short and thick while a butterfly’s body is long and thin. Additionally, a moth’s upper and lower wings are joined together while a butterfly’s upper and lower wings are separate.


Are moths carnivores, herbivores, or omnivores?

Moth caterpillars as well as adult moths are herbivores. The caterpillars eat plant leaves while the adult moths drink nectar and sap.


What is moth powder (dust)?

If you’ve ever held a moth or butterfly, you may have ended up with some powder or dust on your fingers. This dust is made up of tiny scales from the moth or butterfly’s wings. Losing a few scales (that may look like small hairs) in the form of dust is not going to prevent a moth or butterfly from flying again. But, if you want to hold a moth, try not to touch its wings so it won’t lose any scales. Or, maybe just observe all of its amazing features from a few feet away.


What is the best moth repellent?

Moths are repelled by the fragrance of cedar. If you want to keep moths away from the clothes in your closet or out of your attic without using harmful poison, spray the area with cedar oil or add some blocks of cedar to the closet, attic, or another place where you think moths may gather.