Potty Gardening Club: Moths and Butterflies
Hello Potty Gardeners, welcome to another session of your Gardening Club.
This week we will be looking at butterflies and moths. We have all seen butterflies, and sometimes moths, fluttering about our gardens and I am sure we have all seen the caterpillars as they munch their way through different plants. Did you know there are about 2500 species of moth in the UK? Most of them are small or tiny little creatures that you may not see unless you hunt for them. But there are only about 60 species of butterflies. One of the easiest ways to tell the difference between a butterfly and a moth is by looking at the antennae. A butterfly’s antennae are club shaped, long and with a bulb head at the end. Moths have feathery or saw-edged antennae. Butterflies also fold their wings vertically up over their backs. Moths wings are horizontal over their back.
Butterflies tend to be larger and more colourful than most moths which are generally smaller with drab dull coloured wings but there are some exceptions. Butterflies are diurnal, which means flying in daytime but some are crepuscular that fly in the twilight of dawn and dusk. Moths are generally nocturnal, flying at night. But again there are exceptions and some moths are active during the day, some of these have some brighter colour such as the Cinnabar moth and the Yellow Shell moth (pictured below).
Another difference between butterflies and moths shows in the cocoons and chrysalides which are protective coverings for the pupa. The pupa is the intermediate stage between the larva and adult. A moth makes a silky covered cocoon and a butterfly makes a chrysalis, which is a hard, smooth case or covering with no silk.
The importance of butterflies and moths is not always obvious but as well as being pollinators, they and their caterpillars are an important part of the food chain, providing tasty snacks for birds other animals, caterpillars may be munching their way through your flowers and vegetables but they are important food source and attract other wildlife into your garden.
They are fragile, wonderful creatures that environmental changes impact on quickly, this makes them important indicators to the health of our natural environment. Climate change and the destruction of habitat can result in a reduction and possibly the ultimate loss of these wonderful and beautiful beasties.
Amazingly butterflies and moths have been around for at least 50 million years and possibly evolved 150 million years ago, it’s hard to image a world without them. You have seen some pictures of butterflies and moths I have found. Why not look around your own garden and see what you can find?
You can also colour in this butterfly picture:
Until next week Potty Gardeners, happy hunting.
Written by Rob Gagliano, Casual Learning Development Leader and Natural Science Collections Volunteer