Throughout history, moths and butterflies have been revered for their beauty and elusive, mysterious qualities. They have been featured in countless paintings and mentioned in untold numbers of literary works. Their beauty ranges from the subtle to some of the most elaborate works of nature's art.
Gardeners often plant certain flower species that will attract butterflies to their gardens. Specifically, nectar plants are used because butterflies get nutrients from the sugar-rich liquid that they produce. For example, milkweed attracts Monarch butterflies. Certain butterflies are attracted to specifically colored flowers.
The staggering numbers of species of moths and butterflies varies between 12,000 -15,000 for butterflies and as many as 250,000 different types of moths, with more species being discovered all the time. They appear in virtually every country in the world and are subjects of many different types of cultural traditions, stories and legends.
How does one tell moths and butterflies apart? Generally speaking, moths are the ones with the duller colored wings and feathery antennae, and butterflies tend to be more brightly colored, more slender, and have small knobs on the ends of their antennae. The antennae are used for smelling. Some scientists theorize that they are also used for hearing. Both moths and butterflies have tiny scales covering their two pairs of wings. One tends to spot butterflies more during the day, and moths toward dusk or in the evenings.
Both moths and butterflies are beneficial to the environment. They serve to pollinate flowers and fruit trees. Moth larvae (silk worms) are vital to the production of silk. While most moths and butterflies are perfectly harmless, the problem lies when they exist in imbalanced number. Unfortunately, this happens frequently—and when it does there are certain types that can cause great damage to property and plants.
Young clothing moths are notorious for destroying fur, upholstery, rugs and clothing. Cabbage butterflies are known for laying their eggs on the bottoms of vegetable leaves. The caterpillars of these butterflies have been known to destroy entire cabbage crops. Another type of harmful moth is the Codling moth. These insects are the enemy of apple trees, pear trees and walnut trees, as well as other fruit bearing trees.
Maples, oaks and elm trees are threatened by the Gypsy Moth, which lives more in the northeastern states. Toward the south, the moth larvae called the Cotton Bollworm can destroy entire crops of cotton and corn, sorghum, soybeans, peanuts and sunflowers.
Moths and butterflies are certainly insects that should be enjoyed. However, when their numbers grow too large, it is a good idea to call a pest control specialist to help get them under control.