How Many Types of Moth Exist?

Moths are fascinating creatures that belong to the order Lepidoptera. While butterflies are often more well-known and visible due to their bright colors and diurnal behavior, moths are actually much more diverse in terms of their species and behaviors.

So, how many types of moths are there in the world?

types of moth - different types of moth - a collection board

According to various sources, there are approximately 160,000 species of moths in the world, making them one of the most diverse groups of insects.

This number is much higher than the number of butterfly species, which is estimated to be around 17,500. Moths can be found in almost every habitat on Earth, from the Arctic tundra to tropical rainforests, and they play important roles in many ecosystems as pollinators, food sources, and decomposers.

Despite their ecological importance, moths are often overlooked or misunderstood by humans.

Many people associate moths with drab, brown insects that eat holes in their clothing, but in reality, moths come in a wide range of colors, shapes, and sizes.

In the following sections, we will explore some of the most interesting and unusual types of moth, as well as their behaviors, habitats, and ecological roles.

Types of Moth

Moths are a diverse group of insects that belong to the order Lepidoptera.

There are over 160,000 species of moths in the world. In this section, we will explore the a handful of different species. We’ll also take a look at the differences between butterflies and moths.

Species of Moths

Moths come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and colors. Some of the most well-known species of moths include the Luna Moth, Atlas Moth, and Polyphemus Moth.

luna moth

The Luna Moth is known for its bright green wings and long tails. While the Atlas Moth is one of the largest moths in the world, with a wingspan of up to 12 inches.

The Polyphemus Moth, on the other hand, is known for its large, eye-like spots on its wings.

Polyphemus moth

Moths can be classified into different families, including Arctiidae, Noctuidae, Geometridae, Saturniidae, and Sphingidae. Some of these families are known for their bright colors and patterns, while others are known for their agricultural importance or economic value.

One example of the Sphingidae family of moths is the Lime Hawk Moth that is only found in Great Britain.

Butterfly and Moth differences

Butterflies and moths are both members of the order Lepidoptera, but they have some distinct differences. Butterflies are typically more colorful and have thinner bodies and larger wings than moths.

Moths, on the other hand, are generally less colorful and have thicker bodies and smaller wings. Moths also have feathery antennae, while butterflies have smooth antennae.

differences between moths and butterflies

While both butterflies and moths serve as important pollinators, moths are often overlooked in favor of their more colorful counterparts. Some species of moths, such as the Sphinx Moth and the Sunset Moth, are important pollinators of flowers and plants.

In conclusion, there are many different types of moths, each with their own unique characteristics and importance. Understanding the differences between butterflies and moths can help us appreciate the diversity of these fascinating insects and their role in our ecosystem.

Moths as Pests

Moths can be a nuisance and a problem for many people, especially when they invade our homes or damage our crops. In this section, we will discuss the different types of moth that can be considered pests and the problems they can cause.

Agricultural Pests

Moths can cause significant damage to crops, and some species are known to be agricultural pests.

The codling moth, for example, is a major pest of apple and pear orchards. While the diamondback moth is a significant pest of cabbage and other cruciferous vegetables. The Cabbage moth and Cabbage White Butterfly are also the bain of many gardeners.

crop leaf damaged by moth larva

Bollworms, including the African sugarcane borer, are also a major problem for cotton and sugarcane crops. Bollworms are a type of moth larva.

Household Pests

Moths can also be a problem in our homes, especially when they infest our clothes and fabrics. The two species of clothes moth that are most commonly found in homes are the webbing clothes moth and the case-making clothes moth. These moths can cause damage to our clothing, carpets, and other fabrics.

clothes moth

To prevent moths from infesting our homes, it is important to keep our clothes and fabrics clean and well-ventilated. Mothballs can also be used to repel moths. However, they should be used with caution as they can be toxic to pets and humans.

The use of pheromone traps is another effective way to control moth populations in our homes. These traps work by attracting male moths, which then become trapped and unable to mate with females.


Moths can be a problem for both farmers and homeowners alike. By understanding the different types of moth that can be considered pests and the problems they can cause, we can take steps to prevent and control infestations.

Whether it is through proper storage and cleaning of our clothes and fabrics or the use of pheromone traps and other control methods, we can protect our homes and crops from the damage caused by moths.

Moths as Pollinators

As pollinators, moths play a crucial role in the ecosystem. There are over 160,000 different species of moths in the world, and many of them are important pollinators due to their hairy bodies that can trap and transfer pollen from flower to flower.

While some moths are major agricultural pests, others are important pollinators for various crops such as almonds, apples, and cherries. Additionally, many wildflowers and plants rely on moths for pollination, including some species of orchids and yucca.

moth pollinating a flower

Not all moth pollinators are nocturnal; some moths are also active by day. Some moths hover above the flowers they visit while others land.

Important pollinating moths are the various species of the genus Plusia, sometimes occurring in enormous numbers, and the hummingbird hawkmoth (Macroglossa), which is active in daylight.

Moths are also attracted to the nectar of flowers, which provides them with a source of energy. In return, they help to fertilize the flowers and ensure their reproduction. Some moths have long proboscises that allow them to reach deep into the flowers to access the nectar, while others have shorter proboscises and may feed on the surface of the flowers.

Hummingbird Hawk Moth
A beautiful Hummingbird Hawk Moth

Overall, moths are an important and often overlooked group of pollinators. Their role in pollination helps to maintain the health and diversity of many ecosystems, making them an essential part of our natural world.

Fascinating Moth Facts

Moths are fascinating creatures that come in a wide range of shapes, sizes, and colors. Here are some interesting facts about moths that you may not know.

Moth Migration

Moths are known for their incredible migration patterns. Some species of moths, such as the Bogong moth, migrate over long distances to escape the hot summer temperatures.

These moths fly from southern Queensland and northern New South Wales to the cooler alpine regions of Victoria and New South Wales, covering a distance of up to 1000 km.

Moths in Science and Technology

Moths have played a significant role in science and technology. The silk produced by silkworm moths has been used for centuries to make luxurious fabrics.

silk moth

In addition, the unique structure of moth eyes has inspired the development of new anti-reflective coatings for solar panels and other optical devices.

Moth Lists

There are over 160,000 known types of moth in the world, with new species still being discovered.

Some scientists estimate that there may actually be as many as 500,000 species of moths. This would make them one of the most diverse groups of insects on the planet.

moth collection

Moths in Madagascar

Madagascar is home to a wide variety of unique and fascinating moth species. Some of the most interesting species found in Madagascar include the Comet moth, the Madagascan sunset moth, and the Madagascan moon moth.

Types of Moth – Summary

Moths are incredible creatures that have captured the attention of scientists and nature enthusiasts alike.

Whether you are interested in their migration patterns, their role in science and technology, or their incredible diversity, there is no denying that moths are some of the most fascinating creatures on the planet.

Tom Watson