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Butterflies are iconic and symbolic. These amazing transformational insects represent a special meaning to a lot of people.

Butterflies and butterfly designs on t-shirts, hats, mugs, tote bags, sneakers, magnets, stickers, aprons, mouse pads, speakers, and more.

What is the Difference Between a Moth and a Butterfly?

Despite their very different reputations, moths and butterflies appear to be very similar. They indeed have a lot in common, both belonging to the taxonomic order lepidoptera and having very similar anatomies. However, there are a few factors that one may look for in order to differentiate between the two.

Moths and butterflies are characterized by several behavioral differences. Most notably, butterflies are diurnal, or active mostly during the day, while moths are nocturnal. Butterflies also fold their wings along their bodies while at rest, while moths tend to rest with their wings laid open and down across their backs. Moths and butterflies use their senses differently from one another, as well. While seeking mates, butterflies use sight to locate and decide between potential mates. Moths, on the other hand, use only scent to choose mates. Butterflies are also unable to hear, while moths have ears and are able to detect sound.

Being active at different times in the day accounts for some differences in appearance between moths and butterflies. Butterflies have slender, streamlined bodies with relatively thin scales, as they rely on the sun for warmth. Moths, on the other hand, tend to appear more "dense" because their bodies are stout and hairy and their wings are covered with larger scales than those of butterflies, keeping them warm during cooler nights. Many butterflies are known for their vibrant colors, while most moths have wings of neutral colors that feature mundane designs, if any, so that they will not be seen and attacked when they rest during the day.

Several other anatomical distinctions differentiate butterflies and moths. Butterflies use proboscises, or long, hollow, straw-like structures, to obtain nectar from flowers and feed. In contrast, moths have no mouth-like structures, and do not feed during their adult lives, living simply off of fat reserves from their larval stages. Butterflies also have smooth, "clubbed" antennae, or antennae with a small knob at the end of each, while most moths have feathery antennae. Moths may also have thin antennae similar to those of butterflies, but without knobs on their ends.

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