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Moths are predominantly night-flying insects from the order Lepidoptera. There are over 160,000 species of moths all around the world, with over 11,000 different species living in the United States alone.
These butterfly cousins are considered vital for the ecosystem because they are great pollinators and many other species depend on them for nourishment. But, moths are also not the friendliest insects when it comes to fabrics in homes, clothes, and plants.
Just like all lepidopterans, moths go through a specific life cycle in four stages: egg, larvae (caterpillar), pupa, and adult (imago) moths. Although the adult specimens are the largest ones, it’s the caterpillar development stage that causes the most damage.
Are Moths and Butterflies the Same?
No, moths and butterflies might belong to the same order of Lepidoptera, but they are not the same species.
Moths don’t have vivid colors like butterflies, and they are mostly active during the night. In addition, while butterflies hold their wings vertically while resting, moths usually tuck them in or lay the wings flat for display.
Many moth species have specially developed coloring to repel and scare predators.
Are Moths Considered Pests?
Yes, moth larvae are considered pests because they can do substantial damage to homes and natural surroundings.
While many people are scared of adult moths because of their size and appearance, they are completely harmless, and some species don’t even consume any food.
On the other hand, caterpillars need a lot of energy to develop and they are known to eat different plants, leaves, crops, cotton, hardwood trees, or even other insects.
Caterpillars have various defense mechanisms from blending into the scrounging to foul chemical smell that repels predators.
What Do Moths Look Like?
Moths have stouter bodies covered in dust-like scales and appear to be fuzzy or wooly.
On the well-defined head, there are two feathery and thick antennae and large segmented eyes. Moths are nocturnal but for some reason attracted to artificial light probably because they use the moon for orientation (but the experts are still not sure).
Moths vary in size and coloring, some are about 0.16 inches long, while other species grow up to 1 foot. While their colors are not as bright as butterflies’, moths uses these wisely to scare off potential predators and blend into the environment.
Different Types of Moths
There are over 11,000 different moth species in the U.S. alone, with some being more adapted to life in urban areas and people tend to encounter them often.
Here are a few examples of moths you should know about:
This common moth is on average ½ inch long with a wingspan of about ¾ inches.
They are also known as grain moth, weevil moth, flour moth, and pantry moth. The Indianmeal moths are inhabited all around the world except Antarctica and they love to enter homes and establishments with lots of food sources and places to hide.
Fall Webworm Moth
These white moths with dark markings are native to North America, but they are common in Europe as well. This species loves to feed on sweet gum, oak, pecan, willow, and mulberry and they can become quite destructive in large numbers.
Webbing Clothes Moth
The webbing clothes moths are reddish and brown, and average ¼ of an inch long. Even though the adults are small, the caterpillars can cause substantial damage to clothes and fabric.
Common Treatments for Moths
Moths are very resilient and persistent insects that thrive in almost all environments. Considering they can be quite damaging in the home and garden, a lot of people try to manage an infestation before it becomes too severe.
Different chemically-based products on the market repel moths, but also less harsh approaches such as glue traps and natural scents such as cedar. In addition, it’s good to know that moths are sensitive to cold temperatures so freezing infested clothes might do the trick.
However, if the infestation is becoming severe it’s a good idea to contact professionals and let them manage the moth population before the damage is done.