With over 160,000 species worldwide, butterflies are among the most important pollinators in nature. Moths and butterflies belong to the order of Lepidoptera insects, and butterflies make up 89-94% of the species. There are a few simple differences by which you can tell if you are looking at a moth or a butterfly.
Antennae are differently shaped like a club with a bulb at the ends. Moths have a feathery appearance with a serrated edge. Usually, butterflies are more colorful, although many are beautifully colored. The moth sheds scales that look like a powdery substance on your fingers if you touch them. This is natural for moulting and does not affect the lifespan of the moth.
Butterflies usually fly at night, but some species fly during the day. They also fold their wings in different ways. Butterflies put them on the back, and moths – on their belly. The life cycle is similar, with one significant difference in the transformation process. A moth caterpillar will build its cocoon from a substance that resembles silk. The butterfly caterpillar builds a hard pupa.
The moth, an important insect for ecosystems, pollinating more than any other insect, also poses problems for agriculture. For this reason, farmers use pesticides and herbicides to kill moths and protect their crops. Crop runoff threatens surrounding ecosystems and threatens Lepidoptera populations. Below you will find the 10 largest butterflies in the world, judging by their wingspan.
# 10: Magnificent Royal Moth (Cyteroma Slendens)
You can find this royal beauty in the northern outskirts of Mexico and in the lower United States. Mating season is short July-August, when groups of 1-4 eggs are laid on the host leaf at a time.
They are dark gray in color with red veins and white markings and prefer the delicious leaves of wild cotton, manzanita, New Mexico sumac evergreen, and squoust.
In September, they will burrow into underground chambers at the pupal stage of their life cycle, reappearing in the form of a moth.
# 9: Silkworm Cecropia (Hyalophora Cecropium)
A beautiful specimen with red, white and yellow wings, black eye markings and a matte design on the wings. There are red and white stripes on the abdomen. This butterfly has a wingspan of 5 ⅞ inches and an adult life cycle of 2 weeks.
Found east of the Rocky Mountains, these butterflies are similar to the forests of the United States and Canada. The bolas spider can mimic the pheromones of the female cecropia and will use the scent to pull male butterflies into its webs. Mating of butterflies occurs from March to July, and in certain areas from May to June, then repeats after two weeks.
# 8: Agapema Okulea and Agapema Polyphemus
The Agapema family has a wingspan of nearly 6 inches and has two very similar species. Agapema oculea has a reddish brown color with orange, blue and black spots on the eyes. There is a black stripe along the edge, and the body can have a yellow or red tint. Agapema polyphemes are reddish or yellowish brown, and the underside has pink, brown, or rusty markings.
Agapena oculea has one pairing in June-August and lives in oak and mixed forests in the southwestern United States. Agapena polyphems mate once in the northern United States from May to July, twice in the middle regions from April to May, and again in July and August, and several mating cycles in the southern United States.
# 7: Giant Silk Moths (Saturniids)
The giant silk moth includes several types, for example: the polyphemous moth (Antherey polyphemus), lunar moth (Actias luna), Colombian silkworm (Colombian hyalophora), as well as a mole of cecropium (Hyalophora cecropium), which we have already discussed in detail.
Color variations range from shades of brown, orange and yellow, forming “eye spots” in a polyphemic butterfly, to bright green with pink / brown spots and tails on the hind wings of a moon butterfly, to a dull, waxy green with rows of orange, yellow or blue that adorns the wings of the silk moth Columbia, to the brighter cecropia moth.
Each of them produces silk that is harvested and used to make silk in the cultures of Asia and South America. Colors range from silk white to light brown, silvery brown and brown, respectively.
These silk-producing butterflies have a wingspan of up to 6 inches and are native to deciduous rainforests and woodlands. When it is time for mating, the female butterfly releases pheromones for only 2-3 hours, attracting males several miles away.
# 6 Largest Moth: Royal Nut Moth (Cyteroma Regalis)
The wingspan of the king walnut moth reaches 6 inches, and the larva has its own name – the hickory horned devil. This moth is native to the southeastern United States. An interesting coloration, the butterfly has gray-green wings with an orange stripe and a series of yellow dots. The body is orange with narrow yellow stripes. This is a significant difference from the blue-green color of the butterfly in the caterpillar stage.
Mating only one generation per season, these butterflies prefer to lay their eggs on walnut, nut or hickory leaves. They will also use persimmon leaves, sweet gum and sumac. Some scientists believe that the larvae grow faster and larger on persimmon leaves.
# 5: Imperial Moth (Imperialis eagles)
Imperial moth or Imperialis eagles predominantly yellow with pink / purplish brown spots and blotches. Its wingspan can reach 6 inches. Adults do not feed. They fly after sunrise and mate after midnight on the same 24-hour cycle. Females lay eggs on a leaf, sometimes per egg, or in groups of 2-5 eggs. It takes about two weeks for the eggs to hatch.
The imperial moth can be found in parts of the United States and Canada. One of the main differences between males and females of the Imperial Moth is the antennae. The male antenna is four-lobed, then tapers to a simpler antenna of a special kind. The female does not have a quadrangle, but only an antenna of an unusual type.
Most imperial moths spawn in late summer. This time helps with their natural defense against predators. Their colors allow them to blend in with the falling leaves, which often have similar colors. The moth is usually found on the forest floor along with leaves. When you see these butterflies gathered near light sources, chances are they will be females that have already mated and laid eggs.
# 4: Giant Forest Moth (Endoxyla cinera)
It is very unusual to find one of these mammoth-sized butterflies. It has a wingspan of 9.8 inches and is believed to be the heaviest butterfly in the world, weighing just over 30 grams. These butterflies live on the coast of Queensland and New South Wales. Attracted to the soft wood of eucalyptus, the larval stage ranges from 1 to 3 years and has a purple and white stripe. This coloration disappears as they grow older.
Adults are gray in color and have a short life cycle: they live only a few days before laying eggs and dying. Females do not feed and survive on the reserves accumulated in the larval stage. Females do not fly well, so they can be found resting on tree trunks or wooden objects such as fence posts.
# 3: Atlas Moth (Atlas Atlas)
If you are in Southeast Asia, you may come across the Atlas moth. An intimidating 10-12 inch wingspan puts this butterfly at the top of our list. Intricate colors and patterns on the wings include reddish brown with white, black, pink, and purple patterns. The underside is paler.
These butterflies are believed to have a predator defense strategy built into their colorful pattern. The tips of the wings resemble the heads of snakes that scare off enemies. In the caterpillar stage, they will spray secretions just like skunks do when predators are nearby.
# 2: White Witch (Tisia Agrippina)
Native to South America, Mexico and Texas, the White Witch has a wingspan of 11.4 inches. A rare sight, primarily due to its ability to blend in with trees, the White Witch has a zigzag pattern with shades of brown, black or gray. This beautiful moth is also called Bird Moth, Ghost Moth, Great Owl Moth, and Great Gray Witch Moth. The life of the White Witch is 1-2 weeks.
# 1 Biggest Moth: Hercules Moth (Coscinocera hercules)
This impressive species has a wingspan of 10.6 inches and females grow up to 14.2 inches. With a wingspan of over 14 inches, the Herculean butterflies are the largest butterfly species in the world! They are located in North Queensland and New Guinea. They have a lifespan of 2-8 days as they have no mouths to feed. They live long enough to mate and lay eggs.
In the caterpillar stage, the Hercules butterfly grows to 5 inches in length and has fake eyes at the rear end to confuse its predators. Despite the short lifespan of this butterfly, in the cocoon stage, they can live up to 2 years.