Broken down for easy understanding:

  • Lepidoptera (Leh-pih-DOP-ter-ra) are two Greek words combined. Together they translate to 'Scale Wings'. Lepido- meaning Scale, Ptera- meaning Wings. Both moths and butterflies fall into this category.

    Ninety percent are moths, ten percent butterflies. Butterflies evolved from moths so technically they are a sub-class of moths.

    This is the second largest group in the order of insects. An
    order is a group of families that evolved from a common source.

  • Classification - Insecta meaning insects with 6 legs, 2 antennae and having a body with 3 parts. More about butterfly anatomy.

    Sub-class of insecta - Pterygota: The larger of two sub-classes of insecta whose members have wings, such as butterflies and moths. Learn more about butterfly wings.

    Holometabola and Endopterygoata, each defined below, fall under the insecta class of Pterygota.

    Holometabola: Insects that transform through complete metamorphosis of egg, larva, pupa, adult stage and have four membranous wings covered with small scales.

    Endopterygota: A division of insects where wings develop internally until final molting when they enter the pupal stage. Endopterygota means 'internal winged forms'.

    FYI - The second sub-class of Insecta is Apterygota. This is smaller than Pterygota. Its members are insects that are wingless, which is not the moth or butterfly.

  • Insect Identification - Three groups:

    • Butterflies, Skippers and Moths. Skippers are a smaller, separate group of modest butterfly branch.

If butterfly wings are down, they are basking
Photo: Epsylon Lyrae

Butterflies are mostly active during the morning and many have a schedule they adhere to daily.  This is for butterfly mating purposes.  Their antennae have knobs at the end.

When resting they have vertical, upward folded, wings.  If wings are down, they are basking.

Skippers are a separate group of butterfly that have different distinctive features. They fly primarily during the day and have stout bodies.

Their antennae are hooked at the tip. Skippers rest with both vertical and horizontal wings.

The picture shows butterfly sipping nectar with proboscis.

Skipper butterfly with proboscis
Photo: Gucio55

Lepidoptera are both moths and butterflies
Photo: Fadli89

Moths are mostly active at night, with exceptions. They have a feathery antennae. At pupal stage they have cocoons, butterflies have a pupa.

At rest most have horizontal, or spread flat wings.

Their are six primary families for butterfly species. Most other families
are sub-categories to those on this list:


  • There are seven main families of moths. The same applies for moths as it does for butterflies. Most of the other families are sub-categories of the following.

  • Tineidae
  • Lasiocampidae
  • Sesiidae
  • Gelechiidae
  • Geometridae
  • Pyralidae
  • Tortricidae

Related Articles:

Food Web -
Understanding that butterflies are a part of it - a food source.

Back from Lepidoptera to Butterfly Information

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