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World's Weirdest Moths

Image: t_buchtele

Butterflies and moths belong to the order Lepidoptera, which is derived from the Greek words for "scaled wing." There are over 180,000 species in this order, only about 10 percent, however, are butterflies - the rest are moths. The first primitive moths evolved over 140 million years ago (butterflies, the belles of the ball, came fashionably late about 40 million years ago).

Moths are usually glossed over for butterflies, their "prettier, more attractive" cousins. But no more! Neatorama is setting the record straight: moths are truly awesome bugs! Here are some of the strangest and most beautiful moths of the world:

Brahmin Moth

Indonesian owl moth (Brahmaea hearsyi). Photo: Rittner Oz

Those who say moths aren't as beautiful obviously haven't seen the Owl or Brahmin moth family with lots of large, brown moths with intricately patterned wings.

Luna Moth

Luna Moth. Image: Paphio [Flickr]

True, most moths have drab colors, but this isn't the case with the gorgeous Luna Moth (Actias luna), which has large, shimmery lime-green wings with undulating "tails." Like some other moths (see below), the adult Luna moth does not have mouth and does not eat - it lives for only about one week, with the singular purpose of mating!

Hummingbird Hawkmoth

Hummingbird Hawkmoth. Image: janerc [Flickr]

The Hummingbird Hawkmoth (Macroglossum stellatarum) looks like a hummingbird. It hums when it flies, hovers and feeds on flowers just like one, too - so it's easy to mistake one for a tiny bird!

Vampire Moth

Calyptra thalictri or vampire moth sucking blood.
Image: Helsingin Sanomat - via Treehugger

The Calyptra thalictri moth isn't all that peculiar looking - but its look is not why it's in this list: this "vampire moth" can pierce the skin and suck blood! If that's not strange enough, other species of Calyptra are known to suck tears from the eyelids of cattles.

Atlas Moth and White Witch

Atlas moth (Attacus atlas). Image: Gregory Phillips [wikipedia]

The Atlas moth (Attacus atlas) is considered the world's largest moth by total wing surface area. The moth's cocoon is so large that it's used as a lucky charm in in Africa, pocket purses in Taiwan and ankle rattles in Mexico.

Large as it is, like the Luna moth, the adult Atlas moth has no mouth and cannot eat throughout its one to two weeks life (it does all its eating in the larva stage).

White witch moth (Thysania agrippina). Image: Stephane Larroque

In terms of wingspan, however, the white witch moth (Thysania agrippina or Giant aggrippina) is larger: fully stretched, its wingspan can be as wide as 12 inches (30.5 cm). When flying, this moth is usually mistaken as a bat!

Hornet Moth

Hornet moth (Sesia apiformis). Image: gorpie [Flickr]

Like its name implies, the Hornet Moth or Hornet Clearwing (Sesia apiformis) looks just like a hornet, but is completely harmless. It is as large as a real hornet and even has the same jerky flight-pattern when disturbed - a great example of mimicry!

Io Moth

Io moth. Image: Aliaaaaa [Flickr]

When threatened, the Io moths (Automeris io) will spread their wings to reveal a startling eyespot pattern, used to deter predators!

Io moth larva. Image: sarowen [Flickr]

The beautiful io moth larva is actually considered a pest - it eats the leaves of hundreds of plant species, and has venomous spikes that can be quite painful when handled. In a twist of fate, the ravenous larva grows up to be a beautiful adult moth that, like the Atlas moth, has no mouth so it cannot eat!

Leopard Moth

Giant Leopard moth. Image: normanack [Flickr]

The Giant Leopard Moth or Eyed Tiger Moth (Hypercompe scribonia) has a distinct pattern of black rings, reminiscent to those found in its namesake the leopard. The moth's unmistakeable colorings is aposematic, meaning that they are actually "advertising" the bug's unpalatability to potential predators.

White Plume Moth

White Plume Moth. Image: n_ila [Flickr]

Is that a large white mosquito? No, that's Pterophorus pentadactyla or the White Plume Moth. This moth is completely white and has a wing with the appearance of fine feathers. Unlike other moths that fold its wings when perched, the White Plume Moth holds its wings open in a T-shape.

Poplar Hawk Moth

Poplar Hawk Moth. Image: Michael Menzlaff [wikipedia]

The Poplar Hawk Moth (Laothoe populi) is one odd-looking moth. Its irregularly shaped wings enable it to camouflage itself in a cluster of dead leaves on its main host tree, the poplar.

If you disturb this moth, however, it will suddenly reveal a bright orange-red patch on the underside of its wings - as a distraction or startle display - before it flies away.

Death's Head Hawkmoth

Acherontia lachesis, a species of Death's Head Hawkmoth. Image: Trevor H [Flickr]

With a name like Death's Head Hawkmoths (Acherontia), they better be exceptional moths! Indeed, in addition to the unmistakeable skull pattern on the back, these moths can also produce a loud squeak when irritated!

A species of the Death's Head Hawkmoth, A. atropos, is probably the most popular moth in the world. It is displayed in the poster for the movie The Silence of the Lamb.

Other Moths

With some 160,000 species of moths in the world, I readily admit that this list is far from complete - If you think we've overlooked a particularly cool, strange, or beautiful moth, please leave a note (and link) in the comment section below.

"other species of Calyptra are known to suck tears from the eyelids of cattles."

So you could say that the Calyptra feeds on the sadness and misery of things.
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Having bad luck with attacks on my person perpetrated by nefarious hummingbirds, when I first encountered a hummingbird moth, I was quickly reaching for my safety glasses.

Much to my surprise that as it closed in for the kill, it made no noise whatsoever. Great, thinks I, they have developed stealth technology, my one early warning against impending peril has now been stripped away much like the peel of an orange. Or banana, if you will.

Still, it is a welcome addition to the gardens of Chez Tinfoil, and the distinct lack of razor-thin weapons "beaks" is all the more welcome. I will not have to run for bandages after coming into contact with them.

Point of note, the hummingbird moths that call the various flowering plants home (without paying rent, thank you very much) are of the clear-wing variety, which only adds to the veracity of their charade.

The Tomato Hornworm moth is also very interesting, and living in Tillsonburg (and yes, I do have the song memorized, and actually yes I am related to Tom), we have a number of "Tobacco" moths as well that can get really quite large.
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I get Hawkmoths at my moonvines on a regular basis. Ya gotta love a moth whose eyes shine like a cat's in the dark...

We also get a lot of Polyphemus moths here. They're in the same family as the Luna, Io, and Atlas moths, and run about a five- to six-inch wingspread. Not as impressive as the Witch moth, but still makes you wonder if Tokyo's in trouble again!

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When I was little I used to raise caterpillars in pickle jars. Most of the time you couldn't tell what kind they were until they metamorphosed. They'd build their cocoons and rattle away for several weeks. I'll never forget my two favorites -- one was a polyphemus moth in fact, and the other a gorgeous luna moth. The funniest part is that even after I let them fly away, they left behind a faint scent of pickles!

oh. And katie? The photo doesnt do luna justice. In person, it's the most beautiful pastel lime color!
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I wonder if "thumb guy" in the Vampire Moth photo danced around yelling "I've been bit", "I've been bit", "I have to get out of here", "I've been bit", "Where's the head", "I've been bit".

Alas, probably not.
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Moths are one of those bugs that are both beautiful and creepy to me (beautiful at a distance. Creepy when its flying right at me!). I once left my porch light on all night. When i opened the door in the morning to get the paper, there was a beautiful and surreal Luna Moth on the door. It was as odd as seeing a unicorn on the front porch or something. Just... out of place with the rest of the world. Strange how a common insect can rekindle your sense of wonder.
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So does the Southern Flannel Moth...

Way back in the hazy past, growing up as a poverty-stricken kid whose mother line-dried our clothes, we dreaded Spring. Spring was Asp Season. You always checked for fat fuzzy caterpillars before you put on any of your clothes, lest you suffer some PAINFUL consequences! I'd have welcomed a dozen scorpion stings, over one Asp sting...

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I have to agree with Nora,(see above) the first time I saw a Luna moth in the wild, I felt as if I was seeing something rare and special.
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Cecropia moths are pretty too

I managed to raise one once when I was about 11, as my mom thought the caterpillar ( looks pretty much like the one I had) looked neat. Was kind of concerned though, because it was definitely in the cocoon for a good 6-8 months. I refused to get rid of it because I had a good feeling, and certainly wasn't disappointed ^^
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i dont understand ...
i have never ever seen a moth like this like ever in my life ... any where i've ever traveled ...
r they like endangered or what .... ?
all the moths i have ever seen are so like plain ...
am i missing something here ... ???
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Awesome moth article! Thanks so much - from this moth enthusiast!

There is an additional moth that was featured in National Geographic mag and New Scientist called Hemiceratoides Hieroglyphica. Sucks tears from birds eyes.
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the emporer gum moth is a mighty impressive site here in australia but alas the majority seems to be bogon moths. ummmmm deep fried moth anyone...........
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Gorgeous... I did bump into one of these guys one night -
BRIGHT green, lives as a moth for 2 days after being a caterpillar for 5 years.
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Great list. I love moths. The only one I feel was missing is the only one with a cooler name than the Death-head's: the Tiger moths of the family Arctiidae ( These are absolutely beautiful moths, as much as the prettiest butterflies.
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I'm a fan of the Rosy Maple moth. They are in abundance (2nd after Forest Tent Caterpillar Moths) at my boyscout camp. They have a very pretty pink and yellow colouring.
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i am very sad now. i need a coverup tatoo cos i hav my childhood Xsweethearts name on my ass and i wanted a death head hawkmoth of which u claim is "the most popular moth in the world"> that makes it as readily available 2 every1 as much as he there nothing new original unique or exclusive in this god damned world!!!! i feel so forlorn and depressed now
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One of my absolute favorite moths has to be the Madagascan Sunset Moth, Chrysiridia rhipheus. They're so beautiful- It's hard to believe they're moths, not butterflies! Here are some photos:
And another:

So beautiful! Madagascar really is full of amazing animals! (:
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Thank You So much for putting up such a wonderful site ,, we just recently moved to the Georgia and are pretty deep into the woods and a few nights ago we had a visit from a Hornet Moth,sadly it was killed because we didnt know at the time while it was flyin around in our house dive bombing the baby that it was a moth and harmless, now that we know we will be much more careful.Then the following night we where enjoying the breeze comign threw the screen door and heard this knocking, at first we thought, its just the dog thumpin on the door to be let in, till we realized the dog was in side, here it was the prettiest moth we had ever seen and huge, we where able to snap some pics of it hangin onto the side of thehouse and some of its under belly as it hung out on the screen, thank you for this site as we have learned it was a Luna Moth , very pretty and sad that it doesnt live so long , it hasnt been back since the other night so we are hopin it found itself a mate. As soon as i am able to get my digi cam unloaded I will be back to post the pics of the Luna Moth we where able to take.
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Ohh, I just love moths! I remember when I was younger (I'm still young xP ) I was outside at night with my parents. We were at a tennis court, visiting my grandparents at thier cabin, and I actually caught a Luna Moth! I was ecstatic! I had actually known about Luna Moths for a long while before then, so when i actually got to see one in real life, I was so amazed! They're truly beautiful moths. I used to really like butterflies, but now it seems moths are my favorite insect!

It's amazing how much the Hummingbird and Hornet moth look like what they're mimicing!

I also remember when I caught, either a Cecropia or Asian Silk, moth on a night of fireworks in my town. I was still very young back then. Compared to the Luna Moth, though, it wasn't as dazzling.

It's a shame some moths don't live more than a few weeks. Usually it's most brilliant and dazzling of moths, too.

Oh! Rose Maple moth?! I've actually caught one before! Thier colours are so vibrant! They're a bit clashy and remind me of Trix yogurt! Haha!

Ah, yes. I miss seeing such beautiful and unique critters. I hardly ever get the chance to catch a common treefog now-a-days. ): And they're everywhere in my town! Croaking away and what-not. But the topic is about moths, not amphibians. xP The only moths i see now-a-days are plain and obnoxious. All they do is fly in our faces, lay thier eggs in any food my sister may have left open, and spawn, creating more vermins! As if our wasp problem was enough... (We also get quite a lot of spiders. Yeech! Gives me the chills just thinking of them! )

Thank you so much for posting these up. I'm almost left begging for more, though! Lol!
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My family just saw a leopard moth today!

I took it home and took pictures of it. They turned out so detailed!

It was quite the siting! I even posted them on my deviantART account!
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You have a dA, too, Moth Lover?? You must tell me your username!

I've got one as well, it's My love for moths has actually gotten me to make two characters who are very moth-like. I've dubbed them Mottegiest. (German for Night Moth) I've based one off of the Blue Moth companion on WoW, and the other off of the Rosie Maple Moth. Unfortunately I made her pink in places she should be yellow. Dx

But I'd love to see those pics!
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I have monkey moth photos. Here are the links:
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I don't have an exotic moth problem--just a small version that acts like miller moths but it is not that season! These are about 5/8in.long,almost black whose wings fold into an oval shape-not wide like millers.
They awaken to light so I leave the TV on all night--and put the soapy water near it. I vacuum up LOTS during the day. they stay in my bedroom, but I don't know where they come from..My closet? Windows are not open and screens are tight. I find them behind furniture and indark spots. Where do they come from??? manyh thanks.
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A rare moth has unveiled itself from deep within the woodlands of Bowhill Estate.

The rare Cloaked Pug (Eupithecia abietaria) was one of 34 species found by local moth enthusiast Malcolm Lindsay while running a National Moth Night event in conjunction with Buccleuch Ranger Service in the grounds of Bowhill House.

The Cloaked Pug was thought to have died out in the UK in the early 20th century. However in recent years a very few records of the species have been noted in large coniferous woodlands across the UK. This is only the second Borders record (the first was in 1981).
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Oh wow I finally see the species that I think I saw and photographed in Texas: the white witch. I hope I still have the picture. It was so still I was able to run back into the house and get a ruler to put next to it. It was so amazing I thought nobody would believe me if I didn't take the picture. If I can find it I'll send it to you.

Thanks for this page. It's amazing.
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oops! I found my picture and it was an emperor moth with a 5-inch wingspan. I saw it in San Marcos, TX in 2002. Until then I had no idea moths could be interesting. Your site is even more of an eye opener.
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I once saw a Hummingbird Hawkmoth at 14,000 feet on Mt. Harvard in Colorado. It was very large moth, the size of a regular ruby throated hummingbird and that is what I thought it was at first. In the cold climate where it lived, I guess it had to be pretty big.

I see these Hummningbird Hawkmoths every year around my butterfly bush, but they are tiny compared to the one in Colorado.
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Have you heard of the bone moth? it is capable of drilling through bones to lay their eggs! they live in africa but are harmless to people.

You have a nice selection of moths, especially the vampire moth.
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cool moths ! down here in aotearoa we have the puriri moth like a very small green bird ,really cool to find!
we also get the gum emperor moth originally from aussie i think .the caterpillars make great pets- so exciting waiting for them to hatch. we had one hatch that damaged his wing so i used a drop of superglue on it. worked beautifully!bionic moth flying off into the night fantastic
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Hello...i'm Pat in england...could u please tell me a little info about the Hawk moth..has i'v found a Hawk moth caterpillar it's the 1st time iv ever seen how long is it a caterpillar an how long it takes to change..Thankyou Pat keane..
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i was searching to see the mouths of them but these are cool too :) i herad they eat clothes but i was wondering how something sooo small be able to eat cloes . I CANT EVEN EAT CLOES !!!
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