Tuesday, April 19, 2011


There are many similarities and differences between butterflies and moths. Both belong to the scientific order Lepidoptera, meaning "scale winged." The name comes from powdery scales which come off when touched, but butterflies and moths have more similarities than just their "dusty wings." Both insects start their lives as hungry caterpillars before turning into their flying adult forms. They both eat nectar from flowers, and they supplement their diet with other liquids, like mineral-filled standing water and the juice from rotting fruit.

Most people think of butterflies as being larger than moths, but in reality, they both vary greatly in size. The world's largest moth is the Atlas which has a wingspan of about a foot. The largest butterfly, Queen Alexandra's Birdwing, is roughly the same size. We also tend to think of butterflies as being brightly colored, and moths being either white or some shade of gray. However, there are both black and white butterflies; some species of moths are beautifully colored as well.

The differences between moths and butterflies fit into two categories: behavior and anatomy. For the most part, moths are active at night (nocturnal). Butterflies, on the other hand, are active during the day (diurnal). So the winged insect you see feeding from a flower in the middle of a spring afternoon is most likely a butterfly. If you watch a large-winged, fluttering insect make its way toward a light at night, it is likely a moth. Another difference is that most butterflies fold their wings vertically, while most moths have their wings stretched out horizontally when resting. Anatomically, butterflies' antennae are wider at the tips and their ends look like little clubs, while a moths' antennae is generally feathery. Many moths have a series of loops called a retinaculum and a fringe called a frenulum to connect their front and rear wings, while butterflies do not. Often, moths' bodies are plumper and fuzzier than butterflies' bodies.

These two insects remind me of born-again Christians and professing Christians. First of all, and perhaps most obvious is the fact that they are so similar, it may be difficult to distinguish between the two. Jesus warned His followers to beware of wolves in sheep's clothing (Matt. 7:15). Jesus also warned those who pretended to be faithful to the Lord by saying, "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead [men's] bones, and of all uncleanness" (Matt. 23:27).

True believers show their fruit openly in the warm sunlight for a testimony to the Lord, whereas most hypocrites seek the praise of man during the day, and then reveal their true nature in the cover of darkness. True believers "raise their wings to point to the Lord in praise," while the pretenders have "their wings down to hug the things of this world." Sadly, some "moths" deceive themselves, thinking they are butterflies, but when it is too late, they discover the truth (Matt. 7:21-22). If you really want to know which you are, ask yourself, "which way are my wings pointing?"

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