Moth or Butterfly: A Lesson in Diversity

ChrysalisThe other day, while thinking about how difficult times cause me feel as if I’m in a chrysalis waiting to emerge, I immediately hoped I would emerge as a butterfly instead of a moth. After all, I was aware of butterflies like the following, which appear on many “most beautiful butterflies” lists:

red_lacewing_butterfly_480x480Red lacewing butterfly


Blue morpho butterfly


Purple emperor butterfly

Sadly, my preconceived notions are based on ignorance about moths. But look at this moth:

7706 - Royal Walnut Moth (Citheronia regalis) 1

Royal walnut moth

Pretty isn’t it? I learned about the Royal walnut moth when I searched the Internet to find out what’s great about moths so that I could let go of any misguided thinking concerning them. Among other sources, I found a great article online: “7 Things You Don’t Know About Moths, But Should.” That’s how I learned about another moth:


Atlas moth

The Atlas moth is the largest moth in the world, with a wingspan of over ten inches! How’d you like a moth that large to land on your arm? Or how about the Cecropia moth (not mentioned in the article, but pictured below), with its six-inch wingspan? Still, it’s beautiful too! Like the Royal walnut moth (which has a wingspan of over three to six inches) and the Atlas moth, the Cecropia moth is one of the Saturniidae or saturniid—a family group boasting the largest moths around.


Cecropia moth

Another saturniid is the Tussah moth—a silk moth.


Tussah moth

So moths come in a larger variety than just the tiny brown creatures circling light fixtures in the summer. There are over 12,000 different moths in North America alone.

A couple of the great things about moths unfortunately involve their being food for other creatures, which isn’t a plus if you’re a moth.

So, now I know a little bit more about moths, but I’m still a novice on the subject. But I figured that I could at least make the effort to learn more about them, rather than remain satisfied with my previous level of ignorance.

While researching the different kinds of moths, I immediately thought about diversity and how I make assumptions or sometimes coast on ignorance, rather than make a concerted effort to learn about other cultures. I spent more time looking up facts about moths than I did brushing up on Spanish or Mandarin. (I don’t know much Mandarin, so I’m not impressive in the least. One of my nephews, however, is studying Mandarin. He’s cool.)

The world is such a big place. There are close to seven thousand spoken languages in the world, Mandarin being the most widely spoken. Spanish is second. Don’t believe me? Check here.

It’s time for me to return to learning about other cultures and languages. I’m sure my life will be the richer for it. And someday, when I bust out of that chrysalis, maybe being a moth might be pretty cool too.

Moth or butterfly? Which would you choose? Why?

Royal walnut moth photo from Atlas moth photo from Wikipedia. Red lacewing butterfly from Blue morpho butterfly from Purple emperor butterfly from Cecropia moth and chrysalis from Tussah moth from Wikipedia.

26 thoughts on “Moth or Butterfly: A Lesson in Diversity

  1. Nice post. I’m so glad you found out a bit about moths. They’re fascinating. I put a moth trap in my garden for the first time last year (Just a box, a bulb and some slanted perspex really) to show my nephew. I caught the most incredibly beautiful and interesting creatures then let them go the following evening. It was a buzz to discover just what sort of bat food is flying around out there! Did you know that some moths are migratory? As well as birds and butterfly migrants I now look out for moths! (sad man that I am). I actually caught the infamous Death’s Head Hawk moth (the one from the Silence of the Lambs – and to my surprise it squeaked like a mouse when i touched it!

    • What a creative discover-our-world thing to do. I love what you learned–and that you set the creatures free after you and your nephew examined them. I’ve always loved the more monochromatic beauty of moths.

      • As a kid, I never paid much attention to moths, except for the fact that they’d gather around light fixtures. I didn’t realize there were so many varieties!!!

    • Like Sandra said, how cool that you let them go. Yes, I’d heard they were migratory. And I remember that movie (a great film) and the moth! It squeaked? I would have freaked out.

  2. Like the commentator above-the only moth I know is the Death’s Head Moth, all thanks to the all pervasive power of film.
    Also, as an aside, I have started to learn Swedish. Early-very early-days yet. Still, I can say Abba, Ikea and Sven. Soon be fluent.

    • Thanks, Laurie. I’ve been content to be ignorant far too long. My apartment building has several different refugee groups. I need to at least ask questions to find out more.

  3. I think I’d still go for butterfly, but not because they’re pretty. I was chased by a large moth as a kid. It probably wasn’t as big as I remember it since I was little, but I simply don’t trust the fuzzy-bodied bastards. This is also why I root for Godzilla over Mothra every time.

  4. i had no idea moths could be so beautiful, Linda. I’ve always thought of them as powdery white. The Cecropia moth has changed my opinion about the beauty of moths. Despite their beauty, I still like the butterfly. As far as I know, they don’t eat holes in clothes.

  5. I’ve always been scared of moths. Irrational. I know.

    It is very hard as humans not to immediately categorize people, places and things and write them off. I fight that every day.

  6. I love moths. Luna moths, also of the Saturniid family, are beautiful as well. I’ve been kind of fascinated with moths since I read Barbara Kingsolver’s Prodigal Summer. The “Moth Love” story line taught me things and made me curious.

  7. Moths also eat the hideous sweaters one’s relatives give for the holidays. I love your pictures; I didn’t know there were such beautiful moths out there. And you point is well taken about the importance of embracing diversity and learning more about those who are different from us (or that have developed bad reputations like the sweater-eating moth).

  8. Pingback: Snake Surprise | El Space–The Blog of L. Marie

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