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?