Moths are a lot more interesting than you may think at first glance, and there are many moth names out there. They can be colorful, gorgeous, massive, and very important pollinators. They can also be very big pests that harm forestry and agriculture, and there are so many moth names out there, so many that it would take you lifetimes to learn them all. There are 10 times as many moth species in the world than butterflies, and we’re going to outline 52 common moth names, facts, and pictures below.
The Difference Between Moths and Butterflies
Both butterflies and moths belong to the Lepidoptera insect order. This is one main pollinator order, and the other important orders include Coleoptera (beetles), Hymenoptera (ants and bees) and Diptera (flies). Insects in this order go through a larval or caterpillar stage, the pupal or cocoon stage, and the adult moth or butterfly stage. They live across the world and have four wings.
Moths and butterflies differ in a few ways. Most people assume that moths are nocturnal and have a brown coloring while butterflies are colorful and diurnal. While this is true in some instances, this isn’t a fool-proof way to identify moths. There are some stunningly beautiful moths that are active during the day, and we’ll outline both nocturnal and diurnal moth names and descriptions below.
1. Atlas Moth (Attacus atlas)
In terms of wing surface, this moth name conjures up one of the biggest moths in the world. You can find it in Asian forests, and it has a wing size that stretches up to 12 inches with a surface area of 400 square centimeters. They also come with one of the most identifiable multicolored wings of copper and brown with purple, pink, and white lines. Another unique thing about these moths is that they have no mouth.
2. Black Witch Moth (Ascalapha odorata)
This is the biggest nocturnal moth type in the United States. This moth name comes with a unique appearance with a bat-shaped body, and eye-like structure in the forewings, and large black wings that feature streaks of brown. You’ll find it in Brazil and throughout the rest of south-central America.
Black Witch Moth by Jennifer Krauel / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
3. Brown-Tail Moth (Euproctis chrysorrhoea)
If you mention this moth name in the United Kingdom, people will tell you they are pests because they flock in communes and stay on trees and bushes. The name comes from the brown and white hair tufts that surround the moth’s abdomen. It’s well documented that this moth has a habit of infesting orchards, and the most extreme case happened in 1720 in the United Kingdom.
Brown-Tailed Moth by Ben Sale / CC BY 2.0
4. Cabbage Moth (Mamestra brassicae)
The cabbage moth is a huge pest for your brassicas. So, all of your kale, cabbage, broccoli, and brussel sprouts fall into the same plant species category, and this moth loves to eat them. You’ll hear people talking about this moth name throughout the northern portion of the United States. It also doesn’t just eat brassicas. Instead, this moth will eat potatoes, tomato plants, and other important crops, so it can cause a huge amount of damage to your garden if you don’t get rid of it.
Cabbage Moth by IIia Ustyantsev / CC BY-SA 2.0
5. Cecropia Moth (Hyalophora cecropia)
This moth doesn’t come with vibrant colors for the wings, but this doesn’t make it less attractive. It comes with eye-like markings, a small antennae, and golden yellow coloring on the wings. This moth name conjures a moth that has a relatively short wingspan at six inches, and it’s part of the silk moth family. So, this makes it an economically valuable moth for the silk it produces.
6. Cinnabar Moth (Tyria jacobaeae)
This is a very brightly-colored moth that has black and red wings and forewings. This moth is native to Central Asia and Europe, and it was introduced to several parts of the world because the main food source is the invasive ragwort plant. Predators will avoid this moth because of the vibrant coloring on the wings that suggests they’re poisonous.
7. Codling Moth (Cydia pomonella)
This moth name is one you’ll hear that has strong links to crop destruction as it likes to feast on a range of fruits, especially pears and apples. The larvae of this moth can’t feed on the leaves and this allows premature ripening to happen. They don’t get very large, and the wingspan tops out at 20 millimeters.
Codling Moth by Donald Hobern / CC BY 2.0
8. Comet Moth (Argema mittrei)
This is one moth that is very unique looking, and it’s native to Madagascar’s rainforests. It’s widely considered to be one of the biggest types of silk moths in the world, and the wingspan reaches up to 20 centimeters. It has brown, bright yellow, and green-tinged wings with dark orange circles and black linings. The moth name comes from the fact that it has long tails that can get up to 15 centimeters. It has a shorter lifespan and no mouth.
9. Corn Earworm (Helicoverpa zea)
To North American crops, this moth is one of the top pests you can encounter. When people mention this moth name, it’s usually to point out the $250 million in damages it does each year to crops. This moth is extremely destructive as it tends to target the plant’s most important parts for food. It doesn’t overwinter in colder climates, so it can migrate to create seasonal infestations that can quickly overwhelm farmers.
Corn Earworm by Judy Gallagher / CC BY 2.0
10. Death’s-Head Hawkmoth (Acherontia atropos)
The Silence of the Lambs made this moth name infamous, and the name actually comes from the mark on the lower body of the insect that looks like a skull shape. It has a very symbolic value because it’s associated with bad omens or as a symbol of death. The genus is called Acherontia from Acheron, and this is the underworld’s River of Pain. It’s a very dark brown color with light brown or white streaks.
Death’s-Head Hawkmoth by Bernard Dupont / CC BY-SA 2.0
11. Diamondback Moth (Plutella xylostella)
Originally hailing from Europe, you can now find this moth virtually anywhere you grow cabbage. This moth tends to feast on any crop that falls into the Brassicaceae plant family. So, this includes the plants we listed under the cabbage moth name, but it also includes collard greens, cauliflower, turnips, and radishes. This moth is only an issue when there are huge amounts of caterpillars because they’re a smaller moth species.
Diamondback Moth by David Parquina Reyes / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
12. Dried Fruit Moth (Cadra calidella)
This is a very sneaky pest to have around, and it mostly attacks crops during the storage stage. The larvae of this moth will eat dried fruits and nuts after harvest. As another negative point, this moth has a very easy time moving throughout the world because it ends up in shipments of dried nuts and fruits. It’s a huge problem in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean countries.
Dried Fruit Moth by Ben Sale / CC BY 2.0
13. Ethereal Moth (Hyalophora cecropia)
This is one of the most beautiful moths you’ll see, and they look so ethereal that you may even wonder if they’re real if you see them. They have translucent wings and granular dots that look 3D across the wing lengths. They also have very fine hairs on their heads that make them look fluffy. This is a very rare moth that looks magical.
Ethereal Moth by Jeff Flinn / CC BY-ND 2.0
14. European Corn Borer (Ostrinia nubilalis)
As this moth name suggests, this moth is a huge problem for corn crops in the eastern portion of the United States and in Europe. Farmers have had to resort to attempting to control this pest using Bt corn.
European Corn Borer by Ryszard / CC BY-NC 2.0
15. Fall Armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda)
As a modern mover, this moth is expanding across the world. Before 2016, this moth name wasn’t known outside of Africa. However, since then, it has spread to more than two dozen countries, and it threatens corn crops for farmers. It has spread throughout India since then, and it was spotted in 2020 in Australia. It has also recently come up in China. It affects most cereal crops, including corn, wheat, millet, and other types of grains. The impact it could have on a global scale on the food supply could be massive.
Fall Armyworm by Donald Hobern / CC BY 2.0
16. Five-Spotted Hawk Moth (Manduca quinquemaculata)
This moth could be an invasive pest in tobacco and tomato fields if you’re not careful, and they can easily wreak a huge amount of damage. This moth name comes from the intricate patterns on the wings in white, gray, yellow, black, pale green, and orange coloring. It’s native to the United States and Mexico.
Five-Spotted Hawk Moth by hthrd / CC BY-NC 2.0
17. Flannel Moth (Megalopygidae)
The larvae with this moth also have the name of puss caterpillars because they have a curling habit and a hairy body. This makes them mimic the look of big cotton balls. However, the spines are very venomous. If you get stung, they can cause inflammation when you don’t treat it, and this moth looks like a much brighter colored bee.
18. Garden Tiger Moth (Arctia caja)
This moth prefers to live in colder climates in the northern hemisphere, and this is why the moth name has the genus Artica. This is a generalist moth that will live anywhere that is cold enough, grassy, or in woodlands. The pretty patterns on the wings ward predators off that they’re poisonous. The caterpillars eat plants that have toxins, and this allows them to accumulate poison in their body.
19. Giant Leopard Moth (Hypercompe scribonia)
Native to North America, Southcentral America, and Southern Canada, this moth has very bright white wing coloring that is scattered with black irregular streaks and spots. The belly is usually a very dark blue, and it has contrasting orange markings and white bands on midnight blue legs. This moth has a wingspan of 76 millimeters or more.
20. Gypsy Moth (Lymantria dispar dispar)
This is a moth name that has several subspecies attached to it, including Asian, European, and Japanese gypsy moths. Female gypsy moths have a much bigger wingspan than the males of the species, and the European Gypsy Moth is very unique because it’s actually flightless. Japanese Gypsy Moths are very attracted to light sources, and Asian Gypsy Moths have the bigger, dark brown male species.
21. Hag Moth (Phobetron pithecium)
The Hag Moth belongs to the slug moth family, and it has very odd-looking larvae that have a body with dark brown, short, fine hairs with tentacle-like arms. At full maturity, this moth will keep the extra hair up to the legs. The wings are translucent, and the brown and black hair tufts on this moth give them their coloring.
Hag Moth by Donald Hobern / CC BY 2.0
22. Hawk Moth (Sphingidae)
This moth name is a huge category that has 1,450 recognized species in it that are found all over the world except in Antarctica. It’s recognized as one of the biggest moth types, and they are unique because they have a stout body with narrow, long wings. This moth is also the one with the longest tongue as it feeds on colorful flowers after dark.
23. Hercules Moth (Coscinocera hercules)
Caterpillars under this moth name usually feed on the bleeding heart tree. It is native to Queensland and considered to be the biggest moth type in the world. The wingspan can easily reach up to 27 centimeters, and the caterpillars will weave silk cocoons in the trees it feeds on. Females are more stout in size with shorter tails than the males. It stops feeding once it reaches the moth stage, and it will only live for two weeks.
Hercules Moth by Cataloging Nature / CC BY 2.0
24. Hummingbird Hawk Moth (Macroglossum stellatarum)
As this moth name suggests, it has hummingbird-like behavior where it hovers over flowers and uses the long proboscis to feed. It has dull-colored, small wings that span just 1.5 inches. Many people even mistake it as a small hummingbird since it beats it’s wings heavily as it hovers over the flowers.
25. Imperial Moth (Eacles imperialis)
As part of the giant silk moth family, you may hear this moth name as the royal moth. They have brown lines on yellow wings with black spots. The caterpillars come with longer black spines that can sting if you get too close. They like to be on large trees, including maples, pines, and oaks.
26. Indianmeal Moth (Plodia interpunctella)
This moth name comes from being a pest in America that feeds on Indian corn or maize. So, you may also hear it referred to as the flour moth or grain moth. It does very well in tropical climates, and it’s unique with the brownish-red forewings with tinges of dark gray or bronze. The wingspan stretches 20 millimeters, and the body is 10 millimeters. It does very well in Florida.
Indianmeal Moth by Janet Graham / CC BY 2.0
27. Io Moth (Automeris io)
You’ll find this moth name mentioned in the eastern half of the United States. The males of this species are blue, yellow and pink, and the females have a brownish-red coloring. The caterpillars are also very wild-looking, and they have dozens of spiky, branched structures that stick out from their bodies. As with any Saturniidae species, this moth doesn’t have mouth parts as adults. Once they take flight, they never feed again.
28. Isabella Tiger Moth (Pyrrharctia isabella)
The other moth name associated with the Isabella Tiger Moth is the Wooly Bear, and it’s native to the southern portions of Canada and the United States. It’s very popular because it has multicolored larvae with black, brown, red, and then black segments. Adults are known for having scaly, pale yellow bodies and yellowish-orange wings with marked forewings. They eat virtually any type of plant, so they’re generalist feeders.
29. Luna Moth (Actias luna)
Another moth name for this entry on the list is the American Moon Month, and it’s well-known for having a bright white body and lime green wings. It is one of the biggest moths you’ll see in North America, and it has a maximum wingspan that can reach 178 centimeters. It has curving, long tails with yellow, black, green, blue, or red eyespots.
30. Madagascan Sunset Moth (Chrysiridia rhipheus)
The Madagascan Sunset Moth wins in the colorful category, and it’s actually one of the most colorful moths you can get as it has all of the colors of the rainbow in its wings. However, these colors are actually a light reflection on special structures on the wing scales. This refraction is very similar to what some birds exhibit with blue colors. Birds can’t create the blue pigment, but they have structures in their feathers that reflect blue when you look at them. As the moth’s name suggests, you’ll find it living on Madagascar, and it’s very prized by all Lepidoptera collectors.
Madagascan Sunset Moth by Frank Vassen / CC BY 2.0
31. Milkweed Tussock Moth (Euchaetes egle)
As this moth name implies, this one will feed on milkweed plants. The brown, orange, and block coloring are also all indicators that they are poisonous or fatal to common predators. Their sting can be fatal during the moth’s caterpillar stage because the sap from the milkweed plant has cardiac glycosides.
Milkweed Tussock Moth by Paul VanDerWerf / CC BY 2.0
32. Miller Moth (Acronicta leporina)
This is a migratory moth that moves from one region to the next when the temperatures start to drop for the season. Amy cutworms turn into miller moths when they mature, and they have a three-week lifespan. They have pale brown, dusty wings with a few dark brown linings.
Miller Moth by Ben Sale / CC BY 2.0
33. Oleander Hawk Moth (Daphnis nerii)
In the Middle East, Africa, and tropical Asia, this moth lives all year-round. During the summer, parts of this moth population migrate up to Europe. This moth’s larval stage brings out intense, false eyes. It has now been introduced in places like Hawaii to act as a predator to control oleander plants that are seen as invasive. It can also pollinate the critically endangered Hawaiian plant, even though the moths themselves aren’t native to Hawaii. The only native pollinator to this plant is extinct.
Oleander Hawk Moth by gskep-photo / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
34. Owl Moth (Brahmaea wallichii)
When you look at the Brahmin moth name, this is one of the biggest moths. It gets the name because it has big eye-like patches that look like an owl looking at you when the moth is in flight. They feed on fruit trees, and they target fermenting fruits specifically.
Owl Moth by Bernard Dupont / CC BY-SA 2.0
35. Pandora Moth (Coloradia pandora)
This moth is the famous pine defoliator in the western portion of the United States. During the caterpillar stage, they love ponderosa and lodgepole pines. They have a very hairy body overall, and the color ranges from dark brown to black.
Pandora Moth by Aaron Carlson / CC BY-SA 2.0
36. Peppered Moth (Biston betularia)
Along with this moth name, you may hear this moth called Darwin’s Moth because they have cookies and cream colored bodies and wings. This color helps them camouflage from any predators, and they like to hang out in lichen-filled tree trunks. They have long, narrow wings with plump bodies.
Peppered Moth by gailhampshire / CC BY 2.0
37. Pink Bollworm (Pectinophora gossypiella)
This moth is a huge pest for any farmer who grows cotton. The insects can severely damage these crops by burrowing into the cotton balls during the larvae stage, and this causes the plant tissue damage that opens the doors for fungal infections. Farmers historically used Bt cotton and insecticides to control these larvae. However, genetic engineering and chemical technology have created an unwanted resistance in some of the pink bollworm populations. This could make it more challenging to treat them in the future.
Pink Bollworm by Mark Yokoyama / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
38. Plume Moth (Pterophoridae)
Since they routinely feed on morning glories, this moth is also called the Morning Glory Moth. They resemble skippers because they have a narrow and long green body and wings. Overall, you’ll get a T-shape when they stretch their wings out and show their curled, thin legs.
Plume Moth by Jose Ramon P.V. / CC BY-SA 2.0
39. Polyphemus Moth (Antheraea polyphemus)
This is one of the largest and most attractive silk moths alive, and the moth name comes from Greek mythology. It’s named after the cyclops named Polyphemus because it features a big, solitary eyespot in the middle of the back wings. It usually has pale brown, dark orange, and black eyespots scattered about.
40. Puss Moth (Cerura vinula)
The name puss comes from the cat-like color patterns this moth sports. Males of this species are much smaller with a pale brown coloring, and females are much bigger with white and gray coloring. They feed on aspen and willow trees.
Puss Moth by Nick Goodrum / CC BY 2.0
41. Regal Moth (Citheronia regalis)
This moth is also called the Royal Walnut Moth, and the larvae is called the Hickory Horned Devil because it has a pale green body with black spines scattered around it. There are also five or six orange, prominent horns. It has more vintage coloring in darker orange with grayish-black stripes.
Regal Moth by Shane Kemp / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
42. Rosy Maple Moth (Dryocampa rubicunda)
This relatively small moth has a very unique aspect to it as it has a wooly exterior with a changing wing color. Sometimes, it has a creamy yellow coloring, but the most prominent aspect would be the yellow and pink color combinations. It only feeds on maple leaves, and this is where the name comes from.
Rosy Maple Moth by Christina Butler / CC BY 2.0
43. Saturniidae Moth (Saturniidae)
Generally speaking, this moth name refers to the biggest moth family in existence with over 2,300 recognized species. It includes bigger moth types like the Emperor Moth, Giant Silkhorn, and Royal Moths.
Saturniidae Moth by Ben Sale / CC BY 2.0
44. Silkworm Moth (Bombyx mori)
During the larvae phase, this moth is at the most valuable stage as it slowly builds a silk cocoon. The moth will emerge from this cocoon to an adult. The Middle East and China culture this moth because it’s essential for creating silk garments in the fabric and fashion industries.
45. Small Emperor Moth (Saturnia pavonia)
The regal Emperor Moth is easy to spot with the orange and black wings, reddish-pink forewings, and the white and black eyespots. They tend to lay eggs in thorny bushes, and they only survive for a few days. The males are out during the daytime to find a mate.
46. Snowberry Clearwing Moth (Hemaris diffinis)
It’s easy to get confused by this moth name. It looks like a bumblebee a lot more than it does a moth. It’s native to the eastern portions of the United States and Canada, and it has clear wings. This feature is very unusual amongst Lepidoptera. It’s a diurnal moth species.
Snowberry Clearwing Moth by Judy Gallagher / CC BY 2.0
47. Tomato Hornworm (Manduca quinquemaculata)
The tomato hornworm is a very aggressive pest for any crops in the Solanaceae plant family. This family includes tomatoes, eggplants, potatoes, tobacco, and peppers. This moth falls into the hawkmoth group, and this means it has longer proboscis and it’s slightly bigger. It lives in the United States, and it causes a decent amount of damage in the southern portions of the country with tobacco crops.
48. Tussock Moth (Lymantriinae)
This moth can cause problems with your vegetation because they like to niche in communes and leave plant leaves full of destructive holes and silk cocoons. Florida has three major species of this moth. They feature vibrantly-colored but odd-looking caterpillars with spines.
Tussock Moth by Green Baron Pro / CC BY-NC 2.0
49. Vampire Moth (Calyptra thalictri)
This moth name comes from the fact that it’s a vertebrate bloodsucker. However, only the males of the species do this. A single session can easily last up to 50 minutes, and it’ll leave red sores behind. However, they’re not fatal to humans.
Vampire Moth by IIia Ustyantsev / CC BY-SA 2.0
50. Venezuelan Poodle Moth
First documented in 2009, this moth looks like something right out of Pokemon. A lot of people thought that it was fake because it looks like a very big moth that is heavier and hairier with more solid wings. The body is fluffy like a poodle, and this is where the name came from.
Venezuelan Poodle Moth by budak / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
51. White-Lined Sphinx Moth (Hyles lineata)
This moth is a very thorough pollinator in North America. During some years, populations of this moth will explode in one area and be scare in another, and scientists haven’t figured out why these moths have these strange bust and boom population cycles. This moth’s wingspan can reach three inches, and this classifies it as one of the larger North American moth species.
White-Lined Sphinx Moth by Patrick Alexander / CC0 1.0
52. Yucca Moth (Tegeticula yuccasella)
The final moth name on the list is the Yucca moth, and it gets the name since it only eats the yucca plant. They’re native to the United States, Southcentral America, and southern portions of Canada. They have pale coloring of light brown or cream, and you can find them with tan flushes.
Yucca Moth by Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren / CC BY 2.0
These 52 moth names give you a good idea of the huge range of moth species you may see, depending on your location. Some of them are excellent pollinators while others aren not, and many of them are very eye-catching specimens should you see them.
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.