Butterflies vs Moths
My first call went out to Sue Grimm of Saranac Lake, the "Butterfly Lady" at the former Paul Smiths Visitors Center. I explained what I had seen and shared a photo of the specimen. I also told Sue the appearance of moths, flickering white in the deep, dark woods, might soon become the bane of deer hunters
She informed me moths belonged to the same family as butterflies - "Lepi doptera" - and continued, "Typically, moths are signaled to come out when both days and nights are warm. Perhaps they were tricked - it seems disastrous for them to come out now."
Although, moths outnumber butterflies by a 10:1 ratio, they are the black sheep of the family. Little is known about moths and they are not highly regarded.
Butterflies are beautiful and gather in groups known as rabbles. They come out to frolic on sunny days and provide a whimsical and colorful addition to the scene. Kids make rhymes about butterflies
Moths, on the other hand, are moth-eaten, and gather mostly at night around a back porch light. Moths are furry and dull, the overlooked cousins of the more popular butterfly. Spinning silk seems to be their only redeeming quality.
"But, why," I asked her, "Are moths flying around at this time of year?"
"Moths hibernate under the leaves, and because they are furry, they are able to survive colder temperatures better than butterflies," Sue explained. "The warmer air likely brought them out, or," she joked, "they must get paid by the deer."
More about moths
Moths are more abundant than butterflies due primarily to their ability to exist in a wider range of conditions, and occupy more diverse habitats. And, unlike most butterflies, moths overwinter by finding shelter in leaves, debris or in a convenient closet.