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Do you have a favorite insect? We really like butterflies! But there's another awesome insect with really big wings and long antenna that you might see flapping around: moths! Moths and butterflies can look really similar, but we've got some tips to help you tell them apart!
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Squeaks and I love to look for little critters when we are outside. We especially looking for insects. Do you have a favorite insect? Squeak's favorite insect is the butterfly, and, sometimes, when we are out looking for butterflies we find another animal that looks a lot like a butterfly but it's not. Can you think of another small insect with big wings? Let's think. That's right: a moth!

Moths and butterflies look a lot alike, but there are ways to tell them apart, and, if you put all the clues together, you will be really good at telling which is a butterfly and which is a moth.

So how can you tell them apart? First, look at the antennae. Antennae are the two things that stick out the top of the insects head. Butterflies and moths use their antennae to sense things in their environment, like finding other insects or feeling around plants, but their antennae look different. A butterfly's antennae are long and smooth with a tiny hook or bump at the end, but a moth's antennae have a bunch of little hair-like things sticking off of them, making them look kind of like feathers. 

OK, so the antennae are the first thing to look for. What else can help us tell these two apart? Well, it's helpful to think about what time of day you are seeing them. Moths and butterflies are active at different times of the day. Moths usually like to be out at night, while butterflies are awake in the day. So, if you see a beautiful flying insect landing on a flower on a sunny afternoon, it's probably a butterfly; but, if you see a small insect flapping around a porch light at night, it's probably a moth. 

And here's another clue: Butterflies and moths sometimes rests their wings in different positions. Moths will often rest with their wings spread out flat, but butterflies usually rest with their wings held up together. But it can be a little tricky to tell them apart this way. For example, butterflies sometimes open up their wings, and lay them flat to soak up the warmth of the sun. So, it could be mistaken for a moth, but it's still a good clue to look for. 

Now, so far, we've only talked about what moths and butterflies look like as adults, but you probably know that moths and butterflies don't always have wings. They both start out as caterpillars, and you know what is really cool? You can tell moths and butterflies apart by how they spend their time between when they are caterpillars and when they are adults.

When a moth is changing from a caterpillar to an adult moth, it forms a cocoon. This is a special silk case that the moth spins around itself. Inside the cocoon, the caterpillar will turn into an adult flying moth, and, just like a moth's antennae, cocoons can look a little fuzzy.

Butterflies also change inside a special case, but theirs is called a chrysalis. Butterfly caterpillars don't spin their chrysalis out of silk, like moths do. The chrysalis is actually a hard layer of skin, so it looks smooth. Inside this chrysalis, the butterfly caterpillar will become an adult butterfly. So even though the cocoon and chrysalis do the same thing, they're made of different stuff and they look different.

So, now that we are experts on how to tell the difference between a butterfly and a moth, do you want to test our skills? Let's play moth or butterfly!

Take a look at this picture. Can you tell whether it's a butterfly or a moth? Let's try to remember what makes them different. Do you remember the first thing to look for? Right: the antennae. These antennae look pretty smooth, not fuzzy at all, and look at how the insect is holding it's wings. They're up, not laying flat on its back. I think it's a butterfly. Do you agree? We're right! It is a butterfly, called the blue Morpho butterfly.

Let's try another one. Wow! That's pretty. Take a look at these antennae. They look like tiny feathers, and those wings are laying flat against its back. I'm pretty sure that this is a moth. Yes, it's the Luna moth!

Okay, now this one's tricky. We're definitely looking at the in between stage of a butterfly or a moth. It's either a cocoon or a chrysalis. I remember that cocoons are spun out of silk by moths, so they should look kind of fuzzy and fluffy, but, a chrysalis is a smooth, hard outer skin. This one looks like a chrysalis to me, so I think a butterfly is inside. Yes! It's actually the chrysalis of a monarch butterfly! 

Nice work, guys! I think we've gotten pretty good at telling the difference between a butterfly and a moth. Thanks to Wyatt for writing in and asking us this question. Do you have a favorite insect, or other kind of animal that you'd like to learn more about? Just get help from a grownup and ask us in the comments below, or send us an email at and we will see you next time here at the fort.