Butterflies and moths

October 27, 2013

Dudley Wooten

Outdoors Columnist

Do you remember when I wrote about the least and most favorite insects earlier? At the end of that article I concluded that butterflies were probably the favorite for me, and most likely the favorite for most of you. Butterflies come in a wide spectrum of colors, sizes, and names. They can have about any colors you want and come with names such as: comet, checker spot, comma, azure, copper, dogface, swallowtail, elfin, hairstreak, skipper, glassywing, harvester, monarch, viceroy, leaf wing, painted lady, admiral, emperor, tortoiseshell, nymph, purple, metalmark, crescent spot, fritillary, cloak, question mark, Aphrodite, American lady, satyr, sooty wing, or sachem to name a few.

What’s so special about butterflies? Is it their vibrant colors, the fact that they’re free, or just the way they flutter-by? I suspect it’s a little of all this that allows us to associate them with beauty and a sense of freedom in the garden. We sell plenty of butterfly bushes and some want to see the purple or pastel pink and blue blooms, but most just want to see butterflies.

For solid color, the azure, blue, sulphur, or white butterflies are nice and simple. With bi-color butterflies, some skippers, harvesters, coppers, orange, and dog face are very impressive. When you get in a comma, question mark, checker spot, viceroy, monarch, admiral, painted lady, tortoiseshell, or emperor, you’re seeing atri-color butterfly with bigger wings. This brings us to what I believe to be the best of the best butterflies – the swallowtails. The sheer design of the swallowtail is unique and the diversity of color combinations is fabulous. We would have varieties such as pipevine, zebra, black tiger, spicebush, and giant in swallowtails. They would be hard to beat.

What about moths? They are different from butterflies, you know. What are the differences?


-narrow body -thick body

-active – day -active – night

-bright color -more dull color

-rests with wings erect over back -rests with wings folded over back

-thin antennae -antennae feathery

What are some favorite moths? I would select the Luna Moth and the Hummingbird Moth as my top two. The Luna is the large, beautiful lime green swallowtail moth, and the Hummingbird Moth looks and hovers just like a hummingbird darting from bloom to bloom in the daytime.

My least favorite moths would be the Gypsy Moth, a very destructive timber issue, Eastern tent Caterpillar Moth which lays the eggs for next years’ Tentmakers and any moths associated with tree borers.

If there is such a thing as an attractive caterpillar, the “eyes” of the Spicebush Swallowtail, the stripes of the Monarch, and the band of the Woolybear might earn them an honorable mention. In landscaping or gardening, caterpillars are normally leaf eaters and get sprayed.

It’s hard to imagine all the metamorphosis and transformation that happens as eggs, caterpillars, and pupae are necessary to have butterflies.

Butterflies and moths belong to the second largest order of insects in the world (beetles are #1). There are about 170,000 species worldwide of butterflies and moths. We all should be able to pick a favorite from that list. Flutter-bys are free.

Dudley Wooten can be reached at 740-820-8210 or by visiting wootenslandscaping.com