Tag: moth identification for kids

Bug of the Week: Moth Identification II

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.

geometrid-moth-exampleTypical geometrid moth at rest

Synchlora_aerata(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.

noctuid-moth-60This is a typical pose for a noctuid moth.

cabbage-looper-mothCertain 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.

pebble-prominent-moth(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.

yellow-bells-mothAlthough the sphinx moths can also have a triangular shape, these moths are much smaller.

Indianmeal_moth_public-domain(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:

Peterson Field Guide to Moths of Northeastern North America (Peterson Field Guides) by David Beadle and Seabrooke Leckie

(Affiliate link to Amazon)

Related posts:

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.

Bug of the Week: Moth Identification for Kids I

National Moth Week is coming up July 18-26, 2015. To get ready, let’s take a look a few of the different kinds of moths and learn how to recognize them.

There are some 11,000 species of moth in North America, grouped into many families.

1. Family Saturniidae – Wild or Giant Silkworm Moths

The giant silkworm moths are some of the largest moths. They have wide, thick bodies, like a person’s thumb.


Rosy_maple_moth(Public domain photograph)

The rosy maple moth exhibits the bright colors and thick body characteristic of this group.

atlas-mothThe atlas moth also has a particularly thick body. Other kinds of saturniids include luna moths, cercropia moths, and Polyphemus moths.

2. Family Sphingidae – called sphinx moths, hawk moths or hummingbird moths

Sphinx moths are also relatively large, but both their wings and abdomen are more pointed.

triangle-sphinx-mothThe wings and head form a triangle when a sphinx moth is at rest.

white-lined-sphinx-moth-bestThis is a widespread and common species, the white-lined sphinx moth.

rustic-sphinx-moth-side-houseThe rustic sphinx is another example.

Tobacco and tomato hornworm adults are also sphinx moths.

3. Family Erebidae -Tussock and Tiger moths

Note:  the tussock and tiger moths are a diverse group and they names are in flux. In the past, the tiger moths belonged to a separate family, the Arctiidae.

The most consistent characteristic of this family is that they hold their hairy front legs outstretched when they are at rest. Many of the subfamilies have striped or spotted wings.

hickory-tussock-moth-1This is a hickory tussock moth.

The Isabella tiger moth, the adult of the woolly bear caterpillar, belongs to this group.

4. Family Pterophoridae – plume moths

Although the members of this group are much smaller than the families above, they are very distinct because the moths hold their thin wings outstretched like an airplane.

plume moth1The typical T-shaped plum moth looks like this.

Next week we will continue with more moth families.

What is your favorite kind of moth?