The Order Lepidoptera comprises over 160,000 species of butterflies and moths, with most of these being moths. Only the Coleoptera (Beetles) form a larger order of any animal.
The Lepidoptera are probably the most widely studied order of invertebrates, and have been for more than 400 years. More books have been written about them than on any other group of invertebrates. Indeed, the long history of their study by Lepidopterists has itself been the subject of a few books, and is a fascinating study on its own!
Scientifically, there is no real distinction between butterflies and moths; butterflies are just two of the many Lepidopteran superfamilies. However, in general, butterflies are day flying, whilst moths fly mainly at night. Butterflies are usually slimmer bodied, and have thin antennae with distinct clubs at the end. Moths have antennae of various designs, from thin and tapering to wide and 'feathery'. Feathery antennae are found in male moths, and help them to find females.
Due to their often bright colours and association with warm sunny days, butterflies have tended to catch the popular imagination over the centuries, more than any other insects. They can even be found adorning some ancient Egyptian tombs.
A photograph of a Red Admiral butterfly (Vanessa atalanta).
Other names for (or types of) Lepidoptera include:
- Food plant
- Mercury vapour lamp
- Moth trap
- Urticating hairs
- Wine rope
- Woolly bear
Related groups of terms
Related pages on this web site
Back to Glossary