Ready for National Moth Week next week? Visit the kids’ page at the website for a free coloring book to download and cool games to play.
Last week we discussed the identification of moths, part I. Now let’s follow up with a few more common families of moths.
5. Family Geometridae – The geometrids or inchworm moths
Moths in the family Geometridae rest with their wings laid out flat, with both fore- and under-wings exposed. The wings are often “scalloped” or have a characteristic curved shape. These moths usually have wavy stripes on their wings that resemble tree bark or other plant material.
Typical geometrid moth at rest
(Public domain photograph of wavy-lined emerald moth, Synchlora aerata, from Wikimedia)
Not all gemetrids are brown. Some are green, yellow or white.
6. Family Noctuidae – the noctuids or owlet moths
The family Noctuidae contains a huge number of species and recently scientists have been splitting off some species into new families. The Moth Photographers Group has a page with some 390 different species of noctuids to give you a feel for the diversity of the group.
In general, noctuids are medium-sized to small moths. At rest, they fold their wings back, with the fore-wings covering the hind-wings and abdomen.
This is a typical pose for a noctuid moth.
Certain noctuids, like this cabbage looper moth, have a great deal of hair-like scales on their thorax, sometimes forming tufts.
7. Family Notodontidae – the prominents
Members of this family can sometimes be difficult to distinguish from the noctuids. They are about the same size and also fold their wings back. One characteristic that can help separate the two is prominents sometimes hold their hairy legs out in front of themselves at rest.
(Photograph by Alvesgaspar under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license at Wikimedia)
8. Micromoths – Crambidae and Pyralidae
Micromoths are a diverse group of tiny moths comprising many families. Two families, the Crambidae and Pyralidae, can be easier to identify than some of the others because the moths have a distinctly triangular shape when at rest.
Although the sphinx moths can also have a triangular shape, these moths are much smaller.
(Public domain photograph of Indian meal moth from Wikimedia)
Some of the members of the family, however, roll their wings under while at rest.
Interested in learning more about identifying moths? Try:
- Butterflies and Moths of North America website
- North American Moth Photographers Group
Peterson Field Guide to Moths of Northeastern North America (Peterson Field Guides) by David Beadle and Seabrooke Leckie
- Cocoon versus chrysalis
- Gardening for moths
- Life cycle of a moth
- Differences between butterflies and moths
Be sure to visit our growing list of children’s books about moths and butterflies at Science Books for Kids
Do you have a favorite resource for learning more about moths? We’d love to hear about it.
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