Field Guide

Butterflies and Moths

Showing 1 - 10 of 60 results
Media
image of Plume Moth on blade of grass
Species Types
Scientific Name
Nearly 150 species in North America north of Mexico
Description
Slim, delicate plume moths are instantly recognizable by their T-shaped silhouette, long legs, and muted shades of tan and brown. It can be hard to separate the various species.
Media
Photo of a Celery Looper taking nectar from a flower
Species Types
Scientific Name
Anagrapha falcifera
Description
Adult celery looper moths look like dead leaves. A closer look reveals subtly gorgeous, ornate patterns on the wings.
Media
A photo of a Clover Looper.
Species Types
Scientific Name
Caenurgina crassiuscula
Description
Adult clover loopers have distinctive tan mottled markings with brown bands. They typically fold their wings down their backs. The caterpillars eat clovers.
Media
Photo of an Eight-Spotted Forester on a flower
Species Types
Scientific Name
Alypia octomaculata
Description
The eight-spotted forester is a spiffy, butterfly-like moth. It is a fast, darting flyer and dazzles the eye when it flitters around flowers.
Media
Photo of a Morning-Glory Prominent moth
Species Types
Scientific Name
Schizura ipomoeae
Description
The morning-glory prominent is common but easily overlooked in Missouri’s woods. The caterpillars mimic curled, dead edges on the leaves they feed on, and the adults blend in with tree bark.
Media
Photo of a leaffolder moth visiting a flower
Species Types
Scientific Name
Desmia spp.
Description
There are nine species of leaffolder moths in North America, and even specialists must labor to separate them.
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
A wavy-lined emerald moth resting on a glass window
Species Types
Scientific Name
About 250 species recorded for Missouri
Description
Geometrid moths usually hold their wide wings spread flat against the surface they’re resting on. The caterpillars in this large family are twig mimics; called inchworms or loopers, they “walk” by humping their backs.
Media
Tussock moth resting on a wooden board
Species Types
Scientific Name
About 30 species in subfamily Lymantriinae (formerly a family) in North America
Description
Tussock moths are named for the hairy caterpillars, which typically have distinct clumps of longer hairs. Adults do not eat, but the larvae of many species are serious pests.
Media
image of a Dagger Moth
Species Types
Scientific Name
More than 2,500 species in North America north of Mexico
Description
One of the largest families of moths, noctuids used to be an even larger group. Many are tan or gray and resemble tree bark. Some are serious crop pests.
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.