Hands down, butterflies and moths are easily recognised from beetles and flies, but trying to tell a butterfly from a moth is another thing altogether. Sometimes, there are clearer differences between groups of moths.
Most of us will know that butterflies fly during the day, and moths fly by night. However, there are exceptions to this rule: some butterflies can remain active after dark, and there are money moths that fly in bright sunlight.
The best guide is the shape of the antennae. Butterflies have slender, but rigid antennae, with the ends in the shape of clubs. The antennae of moths can differ in thickness and length, but all taper to a point finally.
Above: Moths have pointy antennaes (left), but those of butterflies have blunt or 'club-like' ends.
Skippers, or the Hesperidae, have antennae which taper to a curved point, but are easily distinguished from moths and butterflies by other aspects of their appearance.
Butterflies at rest fold their wings above their backs, displaying only the undersides of their wings, which are often intricately marked. On the other hand, moths rest with their wings flattened, showing the upperside of their wings.
Above: A moth at rest is almost invisible.
After a bit of practice, most people find it easy to distinguish between butterflies and moths, but if ever in doubt, the shape of the antennae would answer the question best!
Happiest when surrounded by books, Vanessa Ting finds herself thriving in the no-less-fascinating world of conservation biology. This mostly involves exponential (learning and topographical) curves, tagging behind energetic botanists and zoologists.She can be reached at email@example.com.