Moth Scientific Name: Lepidoptera
All About Moths
Moths are an insect commonly associated with the butterfly. This small, winged creature is usually white or gray in color. They are placed in the same scientific order of Lepidoptera as butterflies, though recent research has shown that butterflies actually evolved from moths within or near the Super-family Geometroidea; not the other way around.
Moths are a common sight in any summer scenery and are known for their attraction to artificial light. Though these mostly nocturnal creatures are not usually harmful to humans, they do cause a great deal of pest-related problems amongst agricultural crops or when found in the home. There are some 160,000 species of months (thousands of which that do not yet have categories or descriptions).
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Moths inhabit most areas of earth. Certain locations can often host between 400 and 800 different species of moths at any given time. These high population numbers are a common occurrence during warmer months or in mild climates.
Each species has its own unique set of requirements for its habitat, and all species need consistency from their individual habitats. Dependent upon those needs, a moth may inhabit any number of places from salt marshes to sand dunes, forests to wetlands and grasslands to mountain ranges. One common requirement all species of moth share is an abundance of rock surface or bare ground. It is upon these flatter surfaces that lichen grows. This is an essential food source for larvae.
Life Cycle of Moths
Every species of moth goes through four basic stages during its life cycle. Moths originate as eggs and hatch into larvae. From the larval stage, moths will transform in a pupal cocoon before finally emerging into its final stage: adulthood.
Moth eggs are tiny and often round or oval. These objects usually sport a ribbed texture or other microscopic detailing specific to its species. The female moth will attach her eggs to plants. Leaves and stems will be the food source for the newly hatched larvae.
The larvae stage is the time in which a moth is commonly known as a caterpillar. Caterpillars are long, wingless creatures that resemble worms, and vary greatly in color and texture from species to species. Many larvae are decorated with patterns or sport a mess of spiny hair. Equipped with a mouth capable of munching on large leaves or stems, larvae spend this stage eating and growing. Each will molt its skin four times in this stage to accommodate its fast-growing body.
Upon shedding for the fourth and final time, a caterpillar will build its cocoon for the pupal stage. In some moths, such as the domesticated silk moth, the silk created within its cocoon is harvested and used for commercial silk. Most moths will cocoon on a branch or leaf, while some transform during the pupa stage underground.
During the pupal stage, the larva will transform within its woven cocoon. The larval tissues are broken down during this stage, while adult features (such as wings, legs and antennae) are formed. Most moth species will undergo this stage during the winter months. Their cocoons are made with a naturally camouflaged brown or green.
Adults emerge from their cocoon usually in the late spring or summer months. Their colors, wings and shapes are vast, some pleasing to the eye and others slightly repulsive. The length of this stage varies greatly among different species; some last only a matter of weeks and do not eat at all during this stage, while others can live for several seasons by migrating to warmer regions in colder months. It is also in this stage that moths court, mate and reproduce.
Moths and Humans
With such a vast range of species, human and moth cohabitation is unavoidable. Some moths can be very beneficial to humans. These creatures feed on nectar and are efficient pollinators. On the opposite end of the spectrum there exist moths such as the gypsy moth, so harmful to agriculture that they are considered the most devastating forest pest. These moths will destroy forests, especially those with oak and aspen trees. Other moths are catastrophic to crops like corn and wheat, causing irreparable damage by destroying the leaves and stems of these plants. Some moths have even been made into fictional or mythological characters such as the Killer Moth.
Species such as the silk moth also have positive impacts for humans. Silk moths are often bred and farmed domestically, the raw silk then harvested from their cocoons earning an impressive $250 million in the United States each year.
There are slightly less-destructive moths, commonly known as clothes moths, which feed on animal skin, fur, hooves and feathers. These moths can destroy clothing, carpet and furniture in the process and are common in domestic situations. Read our Moths in house for more information.
To most people moths are nothing more then an annoyance eating holes in your favorite tshirt. Many don't know that moths also like other foods and can contaminate your food storage. Left alone moths can multiply very fast and before you know it your food storage is a moth exhibit. Learn how to make moth traps and what pesticides are the best on our moth control page.
Moth Scientific Name: Lepidoptera
Moths belong to the Animalia kingdom. They are part of the Arthropoda phylum, classified as Insecta. These insects share the Lepidoptera order with butterflies, and constitute a majority of the order population. Differentiating between moths and butterflies can prove difficult, because ultimately, butterflies are a small lineage of moths in and of themselves.