Field Guide

Butterflies and Moths

Showing 1 - 10 of 24 results
Media
Polyphemus Moth, Belton MO
Species Types
Scientific Name
About 75 species in North America north of Mexico
Description
Missouri has 16 species of saturniid, or giant silkworm moths. Many of them are spectacular, including the cecropia, luna, buck, io, imperial, polyphemus, rosy maple, spiny oakworm, and royal moths.
Media
Image of a Cecropia moth.
Species Types
Scientific Name
Hyalophora cecropia
Description
The cecropia moth looks a lot like butterfly ― but note its feathery antennae and stout, hairy body. This is the largest moth native to North America.
Media
Photo of a Polyphemus Moth
Species Types
Scientific Name
Antheraea polyphemus
Description
The polyphemus is the second-largest Missouri moth. It was named after Homer's giant one-eyed monster in The Odyssey because of the big eyespot on each hindwing.
Media
Photo of a male Io Moth
Species Types
Scientific Name
Automeris io
Description
The wings of male Io moths are usually yellow; those of females are reddish brown. When prodded, this moth parts its forewings to reveal hindwings with huge eyespots.
Media
Forage looper moth perched on a brick wall, viewed from side
Species Types
Scientific Name
More than 12,000 species in North America north of Mexico
Description
Learn about moths as a group. What makes a moth a moth? How are moths different from butterflies? What are the major groups of moths?
Media
Several regal fritillaries feeding on butterfly weed
Species Types
Scientific Name
More than 700 species in North America north of Mexico
Description
Learn about butterflies and skippers as a group. What makes a butterfly a butterfly? How are they different from moths? What are the major groups of butterflies?
Media
A white-lined sphinx moth sips nectar from a purple locoweed flower
Species Types
Scientific Name
More than 50 species in Missouri
Description
Sphinx moths are usually large and heavy bodied, with a long, pointed abdomen. Members of this family often hover near flowers, feeding on nectar and looking like hummingbirds or bumblebees.
Media
Hummingbird clearwing taking nectar from a flower
Species Types
Scientific Name
Hemaris thysbe
Description
The hummingbird clearwing is a common Missouri moth. Like many other sphinx moths, it hovers near flowers, collecting nectar, during the day and at dusk. Look for them April into September.
Media
image of a Nessus Sphinx
Species Types
Scientific Name
Amphion floridensis
Description
The Nessus sphinx is a common Missouri moth. It hovers near flowers, collecting nectar, during the day and at dusk. The caterpillars eat plants in the grape family, including Virginia creeper.
Media
Adult grapevine epimenis moth perched on a leaf, viewed from above, wings outstretched
Species Types
Scientific Name
Psychomorpha epimenis
Description
The grapevine epimenis flies during daytime and would seem too colorful to be a moth, but a moth it is. They fly in springtime and love to visit wild plum blossoms.
See Also
Media
image of Caddisfly on leaf
Species Types
Scientific Name
About 1,500 species in North America north of Mexico
Description
Adult caddisflies are mothlike. Their larvae are aquatic and build portable, protective cases out of local materials, including grains of sand, bits of leaves and twigs, and other debris.
Media
Photo of eastern dobsonfly
Species Types
Scientific Name
Corydalus cornutus
Description
Adult eastern dobsonflies are huge and mothlike, with large wings and a weak, fluttery flight. The fiercely predaceous aquatic larvae, called hellgrammites, are well-known to anglers, who often use them as bait.

About Butterflies and Moths in Missouri

Butterflies, skippers, and moths belong to an insect order called the Lepidoptera — the "scale-winged" insects. These living jewels have tiny, overlapping scales that cover their wings like shingles. The scales, whether muted or colorful, seem dusty if they rub off on your fingers. Many butterflies and moths are associated with particular types of food plants, which their caterpillars must eat in order to survive.