The Difference Between Moths and Butterflies

Butterflies and Moths for Inspiration 

My Earth Bitch designs take inspiration from all sorts of places. Sometimes I add in a pair of playful squirrels, other times I’ve used mushrooms because they are infinitely more intricate than most people realize. I’m also inspired by the beauty of insects, like butterflies and moths. I choose to use both because many people can’t tell the difference between them. I like to add that element of surprise by being able to say something is a Giant Silk Worm Moth and not a Red Admiral Butterfly. I also feel that moths don’t get the positive attention they deserve, after all, they are the night time pollinators.

Monarch Butterfly Metamorphosis

Monarch Butterfly Metamorphosis in Stages

The Basics of Moths and Butterflies 

Some basic differences between moths and butterflies are that moths are furrier and have pudgier bodies while butterflies are slenderer(Colin Brammer). Both moths and butterflies are called caterpillars in their infancy, but butterflies molt into a chrysalis while moths spin into a cocoon (Colin Brammer). Moths and butterflies do each have chrysalides, but the majority of moths spins the silk cocoon around it for additional protection (Colin Brammer).

Rosy Maple Moth

Rosy Maple Moth photo taken in Vermont, just outside the studio.

Hidden Beauties


Yellow Slant Line Moth, one of the species in our studio collection.

Many mistakenly believe that butterflies are the beautiful ones while moths are like the ugly stepsisters in Cinderella. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Just take a look at this Yellow Slant Line Moth, it’s impossible to miss the striking beauty of the yellow on its wings. I actually found this month in my studio one day completely intact! You might compare it to the yellow on a Swallowtail butterfly. However, generally moths coloring is less vibrant and more muted (Encyclopedia Britannica).

According to Doekele G. Stavenga this ‘dullness’ of color is “due to high concentrations of melanin in their scales, presumably for suppressing possible structural coloration” (Doekele G. Stavenga). Personally, I don’t think calling a moth’s appearance ‘dull’ is very accurate.

Like Night and Day

It’s believed that this natural development of melanin in moths is to help these nocturnal creatures better camouflage within their environment during the day (Doekele G. Stavenga). This may also be why at rest moths lay their wings flat while the butterfly holds its wings tented together (Colin Brammer). The flat wings of a moth blend better with surrounding leaves or tree bark, as you can see in this photo of a brown and white moth. The moths’ nocturnal habits are why you probably think of moths fluttering around your porch lights at night while you more commonly see butterflies flying around your garden during the day.

Garden Tiger moth

Photo of a Garden Tiger moth taken just outside our studio in Vermont.

Butterflies are diurnal creatures, while most moths are awake at night. Not all moths follow this rule however, which isn’t surprising given the fact that there are over 160,000 different species of moths (Encyclopedia Britannica, Colin Brammer). Compare this to only 17,500 different butterfly species and only 750 of those are native to the United States (Smithsonian). The Snowberry Clearwing moth is an example of a moth that breaks the nocturnal rule of its species (Colin Brammer). I bet you can name more types of butterflies than moths though!

Butterfly Embroidered Jacket

Embroidered Earth Bitch Jacket with Silk Moth, Peacock Butterfly and Silk Moth from left to right.


For the most part, butterflies have the benefit of being in our sight during the day and therefore feature more dominantly in our minds and awareness. Just look at emojis, there is a butterfly emoji but not one for moths.

The symbolism around butterflies may also appear more positive. According to Kirsten M. Stanton from UniGuide generally a butterfly symbolizes transformation, freedom, and rebirth while a moth can represent nighttime, disguise or intuition (Uniguide).

The negativity surrounding moths could be because moths are commonly viewed as pests. Moths are known to lay their eggs in rice or dried fruit which causes the food to spoil, that’s the Pantry moth (NPIC). Cloth Moths are also known to munch sweaters in the closet (Michael F. Potter), which as a clothing designer is a bit of a concern!

Moths and Silk

I think that eating clothing might be the moth’s revenge for people using their cocoons to make silk. Silkworm moth cocoons are used to make silk textiles and that is deadly to the larvae inside (Everythingsilkworm). By taking the silk we never get to see the beauty of the moth, which means we are sacrificing the beauty of the creature for the beauty of a piece of clothing. In fact, this use of silkworm moths to create textiles has caused Bombyx Mori to disappear from the wild entirely (Everythingsilkworm). Now the silk from these moths comes exclusively from farmed caterpillars.


Embroidered Luna Moth on hemp and silk wedding dress.

Peace Silk

However, there is Peace Silk (also known as ahimsa silk) that is made by collecting the cocoons after the moth’s hatch, saving the lives of thousands of moths. Utilizing Peace Silk instead of other forms of silk is both better for moths and for our environment.

Earth Bitch

It is crucial in my Earth Bitch design process that I take the environment into consideration.  I like to use recycled fabrics or hemp cloth. I also choose to use endangered or at-risk species in frequently my work  to try and bring awareness. Moths and butterflies are no exception to this. There are over 20 species of butterflies and moths listed as endangered by the US Department of Fish and Wildlife (SaveourMonarchs). They are at risk of extinction mostly due to the loss of their natural habitats.

Common Blue Butterfly

Common Blue Embroidered Butterfly in progress.

One of the butterflies that makes the list is the Karner Blue (SaveourMonarchs), which I’ve actually sewn on some of my pieces. It’s so saddening to think that such a beautiful creature may not exist in 100 years if people don’t start to take better care of our world. Some other butterflies I’ve added into my design are the Yellow Swallowtail and Monarch Butterflies. I’ve also sewn the Giant Silkworm Moth and  Rothschildia Erycina Silk Worm Moth.

The Xerces Society

Protecting butterflies and moths is very important to me. That’s why I donate a portion of my profits to the Xerces Society. The Xerces Society is “an international nonprofit organization that protects the natural world through the conservation of invertebrates and their habitats.” (Xerces Society) Even the name Xerces has meaning to endangered species and butterflies specifically. The Xerces is a blue butterfly that has gone extinct because of humans damaging their habitats, it left our world permanently in the 1940’s (Xerces Society).


A specimen of a Swallowtail Butterfly I found at a gas station, near the pump, fully intact the week that I was making this embroidered copy for a custom wedding dress.

With every Earth Bitch jacket sold, I donate $50 to to endangered butterflies which gets my clients a year’s subscription to ‘Wings‘ which is the Xerces Society’s educational magazine.

In the end, moths and butterflies are very different. But they are the same in that they are both extremely important to our world and they both make gorgeous and vital additions to my Earth Bitch designs.




For more information about butterflies and their host plants I enjoyed this

To learn more about silk and peace silk, I found these two articles very illuminating

To learn more about the differences between moths and butterflies you can take a look at this video

One of a kind Jacket

Tara Lynn with a one of a kind hand embroidered Butterfly Jacket.



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