butterfly imposters

Many people describe to us and ask us to identify unusual looking ‘butterflies’ they have seen whilst out walking. It turns out that they are quite often one of the day flying moths rather than a butterfly. Moths are very closely related to butterflies, all coming from the group of insects known as lepidoptera – a greek word meaning tile-winged, which refers to the overlapping wing scales.
Butterflies have clubbed antennae – nearly all moths do not.
Moths often seem to fly and flap their wings much faster than butterflies who have a more loping flight. Some of the common day flying species you will encounter are:

Humming-bird moth – hovers just as the name suggests
Six spot burnet – black with red spots
Scarlet tiger – orange underwing, black and cream spots
Cinnabar – loves ragwort. Black with red stripes
Cream spot tiger – yellow underwing, black and cream spots
Silver-Y – distinctive letter ‘y’ shape on forewing
Mother Shipton – named after the 16th century witch the brown and cream markings look like the profile of an old hag!
Clouded buff – yellow or orange forewing with red veins

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