20 Moth Species More Beautiful Than Butterflies (2024)

There are some 160,000 unique moth species, and many have colorful characteristics that rival those of their close relative, the butterfly.

Moths range from small, camouflaged species to large specimens bigger than a human hand, with eye-popping displays to ward off predators. While beauty is subjective, we think many moths are just as beautiful, if not more so, than butterflies. What do you think?

Here are 20 of the most beautiful moths from around the world.

Why Moths Matter

Moths are the unsung heroes of pollination. We hope that the more we learn about them, the more motivated we'll all be to protect these beauties and their habitats.


of 20

Comet Moth

20 Moth Species More Beautiful Than Butterflies (1)

With a wingspan of nearly 8 inches, the comet moth (Argema mittrei) is one of the largest moths in the world.

It's a member of the giant silk moths, a family of moths that produce silk while in caterpillar form to construct their cocoons. It has a thick, hairy body, feathery antennae, and distinctiveeyespotsto disarm predators.

Also known as the Madagascan moon moth, it's only found in Madagascar. Due to habitat loss, it's now endangered, though it is still bred in captivity.


of 20

Lime Hawk-Moth

20 Moth Species More Beautiful Than Butterflies (2)

The lime hawk-moth (Mimas tiliae) is a medium-sized species with a wingspan of about 3 inches. It's found throughout Europe, Asia, and North Africa.

It has a band of green markings across its wings, which helps it hide in its woodland habitat. Males of the species are usually smaller than the females but have more colorful markings.


of 20

Twin-Spotted Sphinx Moth

20 Moth Species More Beautiful Than Butterflies (3)

The twin-spotted sphinx moth (Smerinthus jamaicensis) is in most regards a dull-looking species, with one notable exception: while its body and forewings are brown, it has red hindwings with prominent blue and black eyespots.

It can be found across North America, with a range that stretches from Florida to the Yukon. In its larval stage, it feeds primarily on fruit trees like crab apples and cherries.


of 20

Oleander Hawk-Moth

20 Moth Species More Beautiful Than Butterflies (4)

The oleander hawk-moth (Daphnis nerii) is a large example of a hawk-moth, with a wingspan of 3 inches. It's best known for its flying ability, and when it hovers over flowers to feed on nectar, it's easily mistaken for a hummingbird.

Also known as the army green moth, it has a complex camouflage pattern that ranges from green to white to purple. It's found in Asia, Africa, and the Hawaiian Islands, where it was introduced to pollinate some endangered flowers.

Io Moth

20 Moth Species More Beautiful Than Butterflies (5)

The io moth (Automeris io) is a colorful species that can be found across much of Canada and the United States. It has large, dramatic eyespots with white speckles that almost appear to reflect light.

While the males are primarily yellow, female moths have red forewings and smaller antennae. In its caterpillar form, it is bright green and covered with venomous spines that release toxins when touched.


of 20

Garden Tiger Moth

20 Moth Species More Beautiful Than Butterflies (6)

The garden tiger moth (Arctia caja) prefers colder climates, and can be found in the upper latitudes across North America, Europe, and Asia.

Its zebralike wing pattern wards off predators, and for good reason—the fluids in its body are toxic to other animals. It also generates a clicking sound that's been proven todisrupt bats' echolocation abilities, which serves as another escape tactic.


of 20

Galium Sphinx Moth

20 Moth Species More Beautiful Than Butterflies (7)

The galium sphinx moth (Hyles gallii) is another impressive flier, with strong, striped wings that can span over 3 inches. Its range includes the Northern United States and Canada, and it can even survive as far north as the Arctic Circle.

It's named after theGaliumfamily of plants, which it feeds on as a caterpillar. Sphinx moths, also known as hawk-moths, are unusually active during the daytime, when they feed on the nectar of flowers.


of 20

Rosy Maple Moth

20 Moth Species More Beautiful Than Butterflies (8)

The rosy maple moth (Dryocampa rubicunda) is one of the smallest of the great silk moths, a family of moths with more than2,300 member species. It's distinguished by its bright coloration, with a stout yellow body, pink legs, and pink- and yellow-striped wings. And obviously, the rosy maple moth gets bonus points for that face!

20 Moth Species More Beautiful Than Butterflies (9)

This fuzzy creature feeds on maple leaves in its caterpillar form; in fact, large groups of caterpillars can easily render a tree bare, though this does not harm the host tree.

Like other great silk moths, it only survives from a few days up to two weeks as an adult and lacks the mouth parts necessary to eat.


of 20

False Tiger Moth

20 Moth Species More Beautiful Than Butterflies (10)

The false tiger moth (Dysphania militaris) is one of the moth species most commonly mistaken for a butterfly, perhaps due to its bright coloration, which is reminiscent of someswallowtail butterflies.

Despite its bright colors, it shares the characteristics that separatemoths from butterflies, including feathery antennae, a thicker abdomen, and larger scales on its wings. It is found in Southeast Asia, and has a wingspan of about 3.5 inches.


of 20

Cecropia Moth

20 Moth Species More Beautiful Than Butterflies (11)

The cecropia moth (Hyalophora cecropia) is North America's largest moth, with a wingspan that can reach 7 inches. Like other giant silk moths, itcan't eatand survives as an adult moth for only two weeks.

The population is susceptible to pest issues—a parasitoid called the tachinid fly was introduced to combat exoticgypsy moths, but has been so effective that it is affecting native moth populations as well.


of 20

Madagascan Sunset Moth

20 Moth Species More Beautiful Than Butterflies (12)

Like the comet moth, the Madagascan sunset moth (Chrysiridia rhipheus) is a colorful specimen that is endemic to Madagascar. It is not, however, as large as the comet moth, with a wingspan of only 3 inches.

Its hindwings sport a multitude of hues as well as several distinctive tails. Collectors are so enamored by its beautiful appearance that it is now bred in captivity for theinternational butterfly trade.


of 20

Giant Leopard Moth

20 Moth Species More Beautiful Than Butterflies (13)

The giant leopard moth (Hypercompe scribonia) is found across North and Central America, from southern Canada to Panama.

20 Moth Species More Beautiful Than Butterflies (14)

It has a distinctive color pattern, with white wings with black spots, some of which are solid and others ringed. When its wings are spread, its colorful abdomen, with shiny blue and orange spots, becomes visible. It's generally hard to spot, thanks to its nocturnal nature.


of 20

Rothschildia Aurota

20 Moth Species More Beautiful Than Butterflies (15)

Rothschildia aurotais another giant silk moth species, and one of the largest to be found in South America, with a wingspan of 6-7 inches. It is one of many similar species on the continent, which might explain the lack of a common name.

Thanks to its wingspan and coloration, it's also a popular species with hobbyist breeders and is known for being easy to raise in captivity.


of 20

Emperor Moth

20 Moth Species More Beautiful Than Butterflies (16)

The emperor moth (Saturnia pavonia) is a large, brown species found across Europe. It's the only member of theSaturniidaefamily—which includes most of the largest, most beautiful moths—that lives in the British Isles.

Its mostly brown appearance is set off by a black and orange eyespot on each of its four wings.

Males will fly during the day and are much more active than females, which prefer to lie low in the vegetation during daylight hours.


of 20

White-Lined Sphinx Moth

20 Moth Species More Beautiful Than Butterflies (17)

The white-lined sphinx moth (Hyles lineata) is another hawk-moth known for its flying prowess reminiscent of hummingbirds. Its most striking feature is the white lines referenced in its name, which cover both its wings and abdomen.

It's found across most of North and Central America, where it feeds on a wide variety of plants and flowers.

In its caterpillar form, it's known to gather in large groups that can defoliate trees and shrubs.


of 20

Luna Moth

20 Moth Species More Beautiful Than Butterflies (18)

The luna moth (Actias luna) is one of the largest moth species found in North America. While it's not endangered, it can be hard to spot in the wild, due to its weeklong lifespan.

It's distinguished by its white body and large, pale green wings with long tails. As a caterpillar, the luna moth is one of several species that will deter predators byproducing a clicking sound and regurgitating a foul liquid.


of 20

Hercules moth

20 Moth Species More Beautiful Than Butterflies (19)

A female Hercules moth (Coscinocera hercules) earned the distinction as the world's largest moth, with the largest recorded wing surface area of any insect and a wingspan of 11 inches. It's native to northern Australia and New Guinea.

These giant specimens haven't evolved by accident—studies show that large wings with long tails can help moths escape from bats by drawing attention away from more vital body parts and disrupting sonar.


of 20

Coffee Clearwing

20 Moth Species More Beautiful Than Butterflies (20)

The coffee clearwing (Cephonodes hylas), also known as the coffee bee hawk-moth or pellucid hawk-moth, is widely found across Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and Australia.

It's unique for its transparent, black-lined wings, and its multicolored body, which ranges from yellow to brown to green. As a caterpillar, it feeds on gardenia and coffee plants, and features a horn on its rear end, a common characteristic of hawk-moth larvae.


of 20

Elephant Hawk-Moth

20 Moth Species More Beautiful Than Butterflies (21)

The elephant hawk-moth (Deilephila elpenor) is distributed across Europe and Asia, but is most commonly found in the United Kingdom. Unlike most pollinating moths, which feed during the day, it remains nocturnal and has developed excellent night vision. It can evendetect a flower's color with only moonlight as a guide.

It has evolved to have eyespots in both its caterpillar and adult forms. As a caterpillar, it will strike a defensive pose,widening its bodyand emphasizing the spots to deter predators.


of 20

Japanese Silk Moth

20 Moth Species More Beautiful Than Butterflies (22)

The Japanese silk moth (Antheraea yamamai) is known for producing rare and expensive tussar silk, but it's an arresting species due to its appearance as well. It has large, fernlike antennae and tan-colored wings that can grow up to 6 inches wide.

It's native to Japan, but after more than 1,000 years of cultivation for its silk, it has been imported across Asia and Europe, where the species escaped containment and now also lives in the wild.

20 Moth Species More Beautiful Than Butterflies (2024)


Are moths or butterflies more beautiful? ›

Moths are often overshadowed by their colorful and charismatic counterparts, butterflies. However, there are several moth species that can easily rival butterflies in terms of their beauty, intricate patterns, and captivating colors.

What's the most beautiful moth? ›

White-Lined Sphinx Moth

Its most striking feature is the white lines referenced in its name, which cover both its wings and abdomen. It's found across most of North and Central America, where it feeds on a wide variety of plants and flowers.

Are moths or butterflies prettier? ›

Myth: Moths are not as beautiful as butterflies

This is simply not true; just look at the Swallow-tailed Moth, a common moth found in gardens. Many other species are beautifully coloured and some are almost gaudy, such as the members of the tiger moth family.

How many more moths are there than butterflies? ›

Numbers of species.

Moths are in the insect Order Lepidoptera, and share this Order with Butterflies. There are some 160,000 species of moths in the world, compared to 17,500 species of butterflies.

Why are butterflies prettier than moths? ›

1) Butterflies are often more colorful than moths because butterflies are active during the day. Moths, active at night, have earthy colors to camouflage them while they sleep during the day. 2) Most butterflies have club-shaped antennae while a moth's antennae are feather- like or taper to a point.

Why do people love butterflies but not moths? ›

Because of the nocturnal/diurnal differences, moths and butterflies have evolved to have a different color scheme. This leaves moths with a less colorful, or to the human eye, less pretty and therefore less desirable appearance.

What is the moth that looks like a devil? ›

There's really no mistaking a hickory horned devil. They can be up to 5½ inches long. They have long, curved horns on the back behind the head that are orange with bluish-black tips. Starting the night after mating, female regal moths deposit up to 3 eggs at a time on the leaves of suitable host plants.

What moth is white and fluffy? ›

White flannel moth (Norape ovina) adults are all white and are very hairy around the head and thorax.

Is there a furry moth? ›

NO NEED to fear this hairy monster. This poplar hawkmoth couldn't even try to bite you: it has no functioning mouthparts, and will never be able to eat.

What makes a moth vs butterfly? ›

This differences in antennae might be the easiest way to tell butterflies and moths apart. Butterflies have thin, straight, and long antennae with club-like tips, whereas moths have feathery, thick, comb-like antennae. Sometimes you have to look closely, but this is a great way to distinguish the two.

Are moths safer than butterflies? ›

Moths and butterflies are not especially dangerous to humans. Butterflies are most dangerous when in the caterpillar stage. A few species of caterpillars contain toxic substances. Moths, on the other hand, are rarely ever toxic at any stage.

What moth lives the longest? ›

The longest-living species of moth is the Gynaephora Groenlandica, or Arctic Wooly Bear Moth. This unique moth lives on Ellesmere Island in the Canadian arctic. Sometimes, the Wooly Bear Moth can have a lifespan that lasts up to 7 years.

What moth has 28 days? ›

All 12 months have at least 28 days.

However, February is the only month with exactly 28 days (except for leap years when February has 29 days).

What is unique about moths? ›

A male moth can smell a female more than seven miles away! Male moths can be expert sniffers and they detect odour molecules using their antennae instead of through nostrils. Female moths produce scents called pheromones to attract males and the males use their antennae to pick up this scent.

Are butterflies associated with beauty? ›

Native Americans have considered butterflies as symbols of transformation, hope, and rebirth. In Chinese culture, the symbolism of butterflies evokes the qualities of freedom, earthly beauty, love, and the human soul. They have inspired humans for millennia with their delicate nature and the immense power they possess.

Do butterflies symbolize beauty? ›

Overall, butterflies have become symbols of beauty and peace because of their transformative nature, graceful movement, vibrant colors, and connection to the natural world. They remind us to appreciate the beauty around us, to embrace change, and to find peace in the present moment.

Why do people think butterflies are pretty? ›

Butterflies pair and mate in the daytime, so they rely a lot on vision and bright, distinctive wing colors for species and sex recognition. That coloration makes them attractive to us as well, plus we tend to associate them with our fondness for colorful flowers.

What is the difference between a moth and a butterfly appearance? ›

Butterflies tend to fold their wings vertically up over their backs. Moths tend to hold their wings in a tent-like fashion that hides the abdomen. Butterflies are typically larger and have more colorful patterns on their wings. Moths are typically smaller with drab-colored wings.

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Dean Jakubowski Ret

Last Updated:

Views: 6590

Rating: 5 / 5 (50 voted)

Reviews: 81% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Dean Jakubowski Ret

Birthday: 1996-05-10

Address: Apt. 425 4346 Santiago Islands, Shariside, AK 38830-1874

Phone: +96313309894162

Job: Legacy Sales Designer

Hobby: Baseball, Wood carving, Candle making, Jigsaw puzzles, Lacemaking, Parkour, Drawing

Introduction: My name is Dean Jakubowski Ret, I am a enthusiastic, friendly, homely, handsome, zealous, brainy, elegant person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.