Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths) adults

Adult butterflies and moths

scales on a male peacock butterfly's wing

Above and below are drawings and a photograph showing the overlapping scales of the wings, and the many types of scale. It is the scales which give butterflies and moths the beautiful colours.

scales of butterfly/moth

The scales are actually modified hairs which are flattened and hollow, and usually have longitudinal ridges. They are attached to the body by a small socket. They can help raise the body temperature when the insect basks in the sun with its wings open. Darker colour absorb more heat than light colours, and so in cold areas many of the butterflies have dark colours.

Different shapes of butterfly and moth scales

Nearly all butterflies and moths eat liquid food sucked up through their tongue or proboscis. This is actually two tubes joined together. When not in use the proboscis is curled up like a spring.

Moth/butterfly adult head, Lepidoptera head

Some butterflies have been observed drinking from bird droppings and animal urine. It is believed that they do this to get sodium as nectar, their usual food, can be very low in sodium.

Caddis flies and moths

Caddis flies are often mistaken for moths as they are attracted to light in the same way that moths are. The most easily seen differences between them are:-

Eggs and caterpillars

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