Difference Between Butterflies and Moths
By Claire Miles - June 18, 2022

Both Butterflies and Moth have a lot of similarities between them, and they are close enough on the biological tree that they belong to the group Lepidoptera. However, symbolically they have come to mean very different things. The Butterfly is associated with bright colors and warm sunny days, and the Moth is more related to darker, smellier situations. But where do these insects differ in their biology, and how does it affect how we see them?

Table Summary

Brightly colored wingsDully colored wings
Diurnal creaturesNocturnal creatures 
Wings are kept closed or slightly closed and vertical when at restThe wings are open and horizontal when at rest


The Butterfly is a diurnal (daytime) insect with a slender body and large, brightly colored wings with tiny overlapping scales.

The Moth is a nocturnal (nighttime) insect structurally similar to the Butterfly with a slender body and broad wings. They are nocturnal and usually darkly colored with hues like black, brown, or beige.

Butterflies VS Moths

Butterflies are believed to have evolved from Moths and the period when the first flowering plants came into existence. This explains two things: the bright coloration of the butterflies’ wings to blend with their plant hosts and the fact that there are just about 11,000 Butterfly species compared to the Moths’ 150,000. The Butterfly’s wings are kept closed and upright most of the time, and when resting at night, they hang upside-down leaves or similar structures. The Moth’s dully colored and hairy wings are also usually kept flat and open on the surface they perch on, this helps them camouflage during the day while they rest on tree barks or leaves. The pigments of the Moths also help protect them from predators like bats which hunt by echolocation by canceling the sounds. A last differentiation between the two insects lies in their young. While a moth pupae emerge from silk cocoons which they secrete and weave by themselves, butterflies, on the other hand, pupate with a hardened protein exoskeleton known as a chrysalis.