Butterflies and moths are part of the same order of insects called Lepidoptera, which means “scaly wing.” The number of species of butterflies and moths is amazingly large. The Lepidopterists’ Society states that there are about 150,000 “described” species of butterflies and moths but notes that the “actual number of Lepidoptera in the world is considerably larger (estimates run anywhere from 250,000 to 400,000), as there are many species which have yet to be described, particularly in the tropical regions of the world.” With 130,000+ moth species and under 20,000 butterfly species, moths easily outnumber butterflies.
With such a wide variety of butterflies and moths existing in the world, it was not difficult to find photos of some unusual species of butterflies and moths to include in this week’s post.
According to Wikipedia, the hummingbird hawk-moth (Macroglossum stellatarum) “is distributed throughout the northern Old World from Portugal to Japan, but is resident only in warmer climates (southern Europe, North Africa, and points east).”
Photo of Macroglossum stellatarum (Linnaeus, 1758) on Zinnia violacea (syn. Z. elegans). hummingbird hawk moth (a moth, not a bird).
Date: 16 August 2003
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Lepidoptera – Sphingidae – Macroglossum stellatarum. This image has been created to improve the noise of the original for FPC on the English Wikipedia. Noise reduction has been performed with Neatimage.
Date: July 7th, 2006. Rhône, France.
Narrow-bordered Bee Hawk-Moth (Hemaris tityus)
Wikipedia describes the narrow-bordered bee hawk-moth (Hemaris tityus) as “one of two similar species of sphingid moth occurring in Britain that closely mimic a bumblebee. It has a wide range, from Ireland across temperate Europe to the Ural Mountains, western Siberia, Novosibirsk and the Altai.”
H tityus M Kutera Kielce Upland.jpg
Narrow-bordered Bee Hawk-moth
Spots and Numbers
Giant Leopard Moth (Hypercompe scribonia)
Wikipedia notes that the giant leopard moth (Hypercompe scribonia) “is distributed throughout the Southern and Eastern United States from New England to Mexico.”
Giant leopard moth found at 1AM near a light bulb in Newport News, Virginia.
Date: 19 May 2008
Anna’s Eighty-eight Butterfly (Diaethria anna)
Wikipedia describes Anna’s Eighty-eight (Diaethria anna) as a butterfly that lives “in wet tropical forests in Central America and South America. On rare occasions, it can be found as a stray in south Texas.”
Eighty-eight Butterfly (Diaethria anna).JPG
Eighty-eight Butterfly (Diaethria anna). Photograph taken above the Iguazú Falls in Argentina using a Canon EOS300D and Canon 55mm EF lens with Skylight 1B filter.
Date: 18 March 2012
Living Like Dead Leaves
Dead Leaf Butterfly (Kallima inachus)
According to Wikipedia, the Dead Leaf (Kallima inachus) “is a nymphalid butterfly found in tropical Asia from India to Japan.” Its wings are quite beautiful when they are open (see the Gunma Insect World photo below). However, “with wings closed, it closely resembles a dry leaf with dark veins and is a spectacular and commonly cited example of camouflage.”
Kallima inachus at Gunma Insect World.jpg
By 岡部碩道 (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Kallima inachus at Gunma Insect World.
Date: 14 August 2010
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Dead Leaf (Kallima inachus) in the butterfly house of Maximilianpark Hamm, Germany.
Date: 8 August 2011
Lappet (Gastropacha quercifolia)
According to Wikipedia, the Lappet (Gastropacha quercifolia) “is a moth of the family Lasiocampidae. It is found in Europe and Northern and Eastern Asia.”
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A Lappet (Gastropacha quercifolia) in Vlasici, Istria, Croatia.
Date: 1 August 2010
Clearly Beautiful: Glasswing Butterflies
According to Wikipedia, adult glasswing butterflies “range from Mexico through Panama and Colombia,” and they “also fly through Florida.”
Glasswinged butterfly (Greta oto).jpg
Date: 19 November 2008, 12:08
Source: glasswing butterfly
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Greta Oto (Glasswing) Butterfly
Date: 21 February 2012, 13:37
Source: Greta Oto (Glasswing) Butterfly
Sadly, like so many things in life, butterflies and moths are a fleeting delight. The life spans of adult butterflies and moths are surprisingly short. According to the North American Butterfly Association, an “adult butterfly probably has an average life-span of approximately one month.” Some butterfly species live for several months, while others live for only a week or so. Depending on the species, the life spans of adult moths also range from about a week to several months. Those that live about a week or a few weeks do not eat and simply live to mate and reproduce before they die. Luckily, new generations of butterflies replace the old ones quickly, and we can take pictures of them before they are gone forever.