This week in Science, we reviewed what we know about butterflies and moths and learned a few new things too.
First, we compared and contrasted a model butterfly and a model moth.
We noticed that they each had four wings, six legs and two antennas (used for smelling), but the antennas didn’t look the same. How can we figure out if something is a butterfly or a moth? We remembered a lot!
1) Antennas and Proboscis
Moths have string-like or feathery antennas – like these:
Butterflies have antennas with balls or clubs on the ends – like these:
A butterfly also has a ‘proboscis’ – a sort of tongue / straw. I have one of those too.
We looked at a photo of a Question Mark butterfly. The proboscis is curled up under the insect’s face:
Most moths do not have a proboscis.
2) Active Hours
Butterflies generally fly during the day. Moths generally fly at night.
3) Resting position
Butterflies generally rest with their wings held upright. We tried that:
Moths usually rest with their wings stretched out flat
or folded over their backs.
4) Pupal Stage
We looked at posters of the life cycles of butterflies and moths.
They are very similar – with one exception. Before a caterpillar turns into a moth, it spins a cocoon. A caterpillar that is turning into a butterfly forms a chrysalis.
Note: The Very Hungry Caterpillar book:
as cute as it is, is wrong on this point. Butterflies do not come out of cocoons – so either the cocoon in the story should be a chrysalis or the beautiful butterfly is really a beautiful moth.
We took a look at some real cocoons and a chrysalis (collected after the moths / butterfly emerged).
We decided that the object in the book looks a lot more like a cocoon than a chrysalis. That means the creature that comes out is a beautiful moth.
Finally, we got to meet a live Woolly Bear caterpillar.
In the spring it will become a Tiger moth!
Can caterpillars bite you / sting you / fly at you / jump on you? No. However, some caterpillars (particularly the hairy ones) can cause allergic skin reactions, so it isn’t a good idea to pick up a caterpillar if you don’t know what kind it is.
Woolly bears are OK though.
Everyone had the opportunity to look closely at / gently touch / hold the caterpillar.
See you next week,