A caterpillar is an insect


Butterfly or moth?

The term "butterfly" is the umbrella term for this group of insects. "Moth" is the name given to the butterfly in its last stage, the one in which it has wings and flutters - in contrast to the caterpillar or pupa.

Butterflies are initially divided into two groups: butterflies and moths. Only around 18,000 of the known species belong to the day moths, the much larger group of butterflies to the night moths.

It would be natural to believe that all butterflies are diurnal and all moths are out and about at night, which is not true. For example, the rams belong to the diurnal moths.

It would also be wrong to believe that all colored butterflies automatically belong to the butterflies and all colorless butterflies to the moths. The great peacock butterfly, for example, is a colorful, large moth.

There are other distinguishing features that can be used to identify the two groups. For example, butterflies raise their wings vertically in the resting position, while the moths press their wings flat against the body: the hind wings are almost or completely covered by the roof-shaped folded front wings.

The antennae, also known as the antennae, show which group they belong to: a moth often has feathery or comb-like antennae, while the antennae of the butterflies are always smooth and end up thickening into clubs.

The swarmers belong to the moths, although there are also some purely diurnal species among them, such as the pigeon tail.

They are usually large moths with narrow forewings and short hind wings. The body is strong, spindle-shaped, the antennae simple but thickened. The bare caterpillars have a horn at the rear end, like the caterpillar of the privet hawk, for example. Hawk caterpillars pupate in the earth.

Moths are often incorrectly referred to as all nocturnal butterflies, but moths are also a family of moths. They are all very small to tiny species with a wingspan of less than three centimeters, including the clothes moth, which used to be a pest.

In contrast to many other butterflies, their caterpillars do not feed on plants, but exclusively on dry, animal substances such as feathers, hair or horn and they require almost no water to develop.

Jugglers of the skies

Although they seem so fragile, their adaptation to the most varied of climatic conditions has made butterflies a very widespread group of insects. Whether in the tundra, the barren mats of the high mountain ranges in the Alps or in the dark thicket of the rainforests - butterflies can be found almost everywhere where there are flowering plants.

But they are threatened. Most of the moths in our region are dependent on nectar. In the tropics, butterflies not only feed on nectar, but also primarily on rotting fruit and tree sap, but also on excrement, urine or even the blood of other animals.

By treating many plants with so-called "protective agents" against other insects, many species of butterflies were brought to the brink of existence in our country. It was only the slow regulation of the use of such insecticides that caused some of the butterflies to return to us.

Together with the butterflies in the tropics, our butterflies are at risk of extinction through the loss of their habitat: in Europe through agriculture and construction, in the tropics through slash and burn or deforestation of the rainforest.

When it gets cold

We mostly meet butterflies in summer, but what do they do in winter when there is no nectar? In order to survive the cold season successfully, the individual species have developed different strategies. Because when a butterfly is fully developed, it dies as soon as it gets cold.