/mawth, moth/, n., pl. moths /mawdhz, modhz, mawths, moths/.1. any of numerous insects of the order Lepidoptera, generally distinguished from the butterflies by having feathery antennae and by having crepuscular or nocturnal habits.2. See clothes moth.[bef. 950; ME motthe, OE moththe; akin to G Motte, ON motti]
* * *IAny of several thousand lepidopteran species, found in all but polar habitats.Moths are chiefly nocturnal and have a stouter body, duller colouring, and proportionately smaller wings than butterflies. They have distinctive feathery antennae and, when at rest, fold their wings, wrap them around the body, or hold them extended at their sides. Wingspans range from less than 1 in. (2.5 cm) to about 1 ft (30 cm). The life cycle has four stages: egg, larva (caterpillar, or worm), pupa (chrysalis), and adult (imago). Both larvae and adults of most species are plant eaters, and many seriously damage forests, agricultural crops, and fabrics. See also bagworm moth; gypsy moth; hawk moth; luna moth; miller; saturniid moth; silkworm moth; tiger moth; tussock moth.II(as used in expressions)sphinx moth
* * *▪ insectany of more than 150,000 species of overwhelmingly nocturnal flying insects (insect) that, along with the butterflies (butterfly) and skippers (skipper), constitute the order Lepidoptera (lepidopteran).Moths vary greatly in size, ranging in wingspan from about 4 mm (0.16 inch) to nearly 30 cm (about 1 foot). Highly adapted, they live in all but polar habitats. The wings, bodies, and legs of moths are covered with dustlike scales (scale) that come off if the insect is handled. Compared with butterflies (butterfly), moths have stouter bodies and duller colouring. Moths also have distinctive feathery or thick antennae. When at rest, moths either fold their wings tentlike over the body, wrap them around the body, or hold them extended at their sides, whereas butterflies hold their wings vertically.As with all lepidopterans, the moth life cycle has four stages: egg, larva (caterpillar), pupa (chrysalis), and adult (imago). The larvae and adults of most moth species are plant eaters. Larvae in particular do considerable damage to ornamental trees and shrubs and to many other plants of economic importance. The bollworm and measuring worm are two of the most destructive types of moth larvae. Some moth species (especially those of the family Tineidae (tineid moth), which includes the clothes moth) eat wool, fur, silk, and even feathers.Some of the better-known moth families include: Gelechiidae (gelechiid moth), to which the destructive bollworms of cotton, corn, tomatoes, and other crops belong; Tortricidae, or leaf roller moths (leaf roller moth), which are forest pests; Lymantriidae, the tussock moths (tussock moth), also containing forest pests such as the gypsy moth; Arctiidae, the tiger moths (tiger moth), with many brightly coloured tropical species; Olethreutidae (olethreutid moth), including several destructive species such as the codling moth and the Oriental fruit moth; Noctuidae, the owlet moths (owlet moth), the largest family of lepidopterans (21,000 species); Saturniidae (saturniid moth), the giant silkworm moths, containing the largest individual; and Geometridae (geometrid moth), measuring worm moths (measuring worm), including the waves, pugs, and carpet moths. For more detailed information see lepidopteran.Additional ReadingJohn Himmelman, Discovering Moths: Nighttime Jewels in Your Own Backyard (2002), is an introduction to the natural history, economic significance, classification, collection, and lore of these nocturnal lepidopterans. V. J. Stanek, The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Butterflies and Moths, ed. by Brian Turner, trans. from the Czech by Vera Gissing (1977, reissued 1993); and Mauro Daccordi, Paolo Triberti, and Adriano Zanetti, The Macdonald Encyclopedia of Butterflies and Moths (1988), provide highly illustrated and authoritative accounts of the world's Lepidoptera.
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