Butterflies, moths, skippers, oh my?
May 4, 2006 - Author: Christina DiFonzo, Christina DiFonzo, Michigan State University Extension, Department of Entomology
Editor’s note: This article is from the archives of the MSU Crop Advisory Team Alerts. Check the label of any pesticide referenced to ensure your use is included.
What’s a butterfly? What’s a moth? What’s the difference? And what the heck is a skipper? Here’s the low down:
- Antennae: long, thread-like, with a knobby-bit at the end
- Wings: At rest, held together up over the body (rarely extended flat to bask in the sun)
- Habits: Active on sunny days. Often seen on flowers or around puddles
- Examples: Monarch butterfly, swallowtails, sulphurs (yellow butterflies common at puddles in the summer)
Moths – many common pest species
- Antennae: usually combed, plumy, or featherlike. Never knobbed.
- Wings: Held out flat, or wrapped down or around body.
- Habits: Most are nocturnal. Fly at night, may come to lights.
- Examples: Cecropia, sphinx moths (hold wings flat); European corn borer, Indianmeal moth, gypsy moth (fold wings back or around body
Skippers – are a type of butterfly
- Antennae: Long, thread-like, with a hook at the end. (I like to describe it as a banana.)
- Wings: At rest, held together up over the body.
- Habits: Active on sunny days. Often seen on flowers.
- Examples: European skipper; silver spotted skipper (pretty caterpillar with a huge head is sometimes found in rolled up soybean leaves).