Interesting Facts About Moths: They Don’t Always Have Mouths

Moths aren’t just the dull brown cousins of our beloved butterflies. They come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. They are insects that belong to the order Lepidoptera. They are less-colorful cousins of butterflies.
There are more than 150,000 species of moths that can be found around the world. Moths inhabit forests, fields, meadows, agricultural fields and human settlements. In most parts of the world, moths are classified as pests because they destroy commercially important types of fruit and crops.
Before you dismiss them as boring, check out these 7 interesting facts about moths.
1. The largest moth in the world is the Atlas moth (Attacus atlas), with wingspan of up to 30 cm (12 inches) and a surface area of 400 square centimeters (62 square inches). It is found in the tropical and subtropical forests of Southeast Asia.
2. Moths have wings that are covered with tiny scales. Each scale has a color, and together they give these insects their amazing wing patterns. Color patterns vary a lot, but they are usually either camouflaged or bright with warning colors.
3. Though most moths are nocturnal, many moths fly during the day. We tend to think of moths as creatures of the night, but this isn’t always the case. Some moths are quite active during daylight hours.
They’re often mistaken for butterflies, bees, or even hummingbirds. The clearwing moths, some of which mimic wasps or bees, visit flowers for nectar during the day. Other diurnal moths include some tiger moths, lichen moths, wasp moths, and owlet moths.
4. Moths don’t always have mouths. Some moths don’t waste time once they reach adulthood. They emerge from their cocoons ready to mate, and content to die soon afterward. Since they won’t be around for very long, they can get by on the energy they stored as caterpillars.
If you don’t plan on eating, there’s really no point in developing a fully-functioning mouth. Probably the best known example of a mouthless moth is the luna moth, a stunning species that lives just a few days as an adult.
5. Moths outnumber butterflies by a 9 to 1 ratio. Butterflies and moths belong to the same order, Lepidoptera. Over 90% of known Leps (as entomologists often call them) are moths, not butterflies.
Scientists have already discovered and described well over 135,000 different species of moths. Moth experts estimate there are at least 100,000 more moths still undiscovered, and some think moths actually number half a million species. So why do a few butterflies get all the attention?
6. Moths come in all sizes, from (nearly) microscopic to as big as a dinner plate. Some moths are so small they’re referred to as micromoths. Generally, moth families in which the member species measure just a centimeter or two are considered micromoths.
However, a still undescribed species collected in Africa is likely the smallest moth of all, with a wingspan of just 2 mm. At the other end of the moth spectrum is the white witch moth (Thysania aggrippina), a neotropical species with a wingspan that reaches up to 28 cm – the size of a dinner plate.
7. Although moths may not always eat, they are often eaten. Moths and their caterpillars make up a lot of biomass in the ecosystems where they live. And they aren’t just empty calories, either – moths and caterpillars are rich in protein. All kinds of animals feed on moths and caterpillars: birds, bats, frogs, lizards, small mammals, and in some parts of the word, even people!

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