There are a total of 59 species of butterfly which breed
in Britain whilst over 2400 species of moths have been recorded in the
British Isles. Butterflies and moths have a lot in common; they are both
part of the scientific order Lepidoptera (from the Greek lepis meaning
scale and pteron meaning wing), both start their lives as hungry caterpillars
and both eat nectar from flowers. While butterflies usually fly in the
daytime and moths generally fly at night; some moths are daytime fliers
and many of these, such as the Cinnabar Moth, are very colourful unlike
their rather drab coloured night flying cousins. The easiest way to tell
the difference between a butterfly and a moth is to look at the antennae.
A butterfly’s antennae are club-shaped with a long shaft and a bulb
at the end while a moth’s antennae are feathery or saw-edged. Another
pointer is that butterflies tend to fold their wings vertically up over
their backs whilst moths tend to hold their wings in a tent-like fashion
that hides the abdomen. On a more technical point, moths have their forewings
joined to their hindwings by a frenulum, this allows the wings to work
in unison during flight; butterflies do not have frenulums.
Butterflies are shown with a red
background, moths with a dark yellow.