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Butterflies And Moths

( Originally Published 1917 )

The butterflies and moths both belong to the great order of scale winged insects the Lepidoptera. They are distinguished, however, by certain general characteristics, which hold true for the most part in both groups. The butterflies fly by day; the moths fly by night. All of the higher butterflies go into the chrysalis state without making a silken cocoon, while most of the higher moths make such a cocoon. The bodies of the butterflies are usually slender, while those of the larger moths are stout. The antennae of the butterflies are generally slender and commonly enlarged at the tip into a miniature club. The antennae of the larger moths are commonly feathery or are long and slender, tapering gradually toward the tip.

The characteristic features that distinguish a moth from a butterfly are well illustrated in the plate opposite page 49, which shows one of the Iargest and most beautiful moths in the world. It is the Cynthia moth. As may be seen, the newly emerged moth is resting upon the silken cocoon in which it spent its period as a pupa or chrysalis. This cocoon was attached by the caterpillar to the twig from which it hangs at the time it spun the cocoon. The feathered antennae, the hairy legs, the thick thorax, and large abdomen all show very clearly in this side view of the moth. As will be seen, the wings are large and very suggestive of those of a butterfly and have the characteristic eye-spots toward the tip and the crescent marks in the middle, which are so often found on the wings of the larger moths.

Some of these large moths on cloudy days occasionally fly during daylight and, by the uninitiated, they are often mistaken for large butterflies. One who will notice their structure, however, will readily see the characteristic features of the moth.

In the caterpillar stage, there are no hard and fast differences between the larvae of butterflies and those of the higher moths. In each case, the insect consists of a worm-like body, having a small head provided with biting jaws and simple eyes or ocelli. Back of the head are the three rings of the thorax, each of which bears a pair of jointed legs. Back of these three rings there are a considerable number of other body rings making up the abdomen, on the middle of which there are commonly four or five pairs of fleshy prolegs, not jointed but furnished at the tip with fine claws. At the hind end of the body there is another pair of prolegs similar in structure.

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