Moths & Butterflies

Moths and Butterflies both belong to the order Lepidoptera.

There are over 2500 species of moths, and 61 species of butterfly, in the UK.

What is the difference between a Moth and a Butterfly? There are no reliable  rules to distinguish between them, and I don’t know why they were first classed as being different (if anyone knows, please let me know). Generalising, there are a few points that often disinguish between them, but these ‘rules’ are often broken:

  • The antennae – butterflies tend to have thin, matchstick-shaped antennae (straight with a blob on top); moths usually have long tapering antennae, sometimes heavily feathered (especially in males, for use in finding mates)
  • Many moths can couple their upper- and under-wings together using a filament (the frenulum) on the underwing and barbs on the upper-wing. Butterflies do not have this feature.
  • Wings when at rest – butterflies tend to fold their wings together, upright over their backs; most moths rest with their wings flat over their body
  • Moths are more often nocturnal fliers, though there are frequent daytime fliers (in Dernol, the Silver Y moth is often seen in the daytime).


Macro- and Micro- moths – moths are divided into these two groups, which are based on “custom and practice rather than rooted in taxonomy” – so I can’t give a clear guide!  Generally micro-moths are smaller and more primitive than macro-moths, but this is not always the case, with exceptions in both groups. In the UK there are approximately 950 species of macros and over 1600 micros.

I have been trapping moths in Glandernol garden since 2007, using a Skinner trap, and all the moths are released unharmed after being counted and sometimes photographed. Many of them can be seen in the gallery below. At the time of writing (February 2022), I have caught 240 species of moths here, the commonest species being Large Yellow Underwing, Hebrew Character, White Ermine and Common Quaker.

The food plants that I have listed on the enlarged versions of the photos are not a complete list for each species, only those likely to be found in Dernol.

Moths – a few favourites from the moth galleries below

Macro Moths gallery

Micro Moths gallery