We all know that butterflies are among the world’s most colorful animals. And while many of the moths that we’re most familiar with are a nondescript brown, the truth is that many of the world’s moths are just as colorful as butterflies, if not more so!
List of Colorful Moths
Here’s our list of the most colorful moths in the world:
1. Giant Leopard Moth
- Latin name: Hypercompe scribonia
- Habitat: Various habitat types across North America
- Size: Wingspan is about 3 inches
- Diet: Caterpillars eat many common plants, including dandelions, violets, and broad-leaf plantains. Adults primarily live on fat stores they accumulated as caterpillars.
- Colorful feature: These moths are mostly white with small circular black spots like those of a leopard. Several spots on the head are deep royal blue.
Though the adults of this species are striking and light in color, their caterpillars are plain and woolly. Most are dark, although they sometimes have orangish bands. You may sometimes hear this moth described by its obsolete name, Ecpantheria scribonia.
2. Madagascan Sunset Moth
- Latin name: Chrysiridia rhipheus
- Habitat: Most habitat types on the island of Madagascar
- Size: Wingspan is from 2.8 to 3.5 inches
- Diet: Caterpillars feed only on Omphalea plants, while adults prefer nectar from either yellow or white-yellow flowers.
- Colorful feature: These moths have patches of iridescent green, blue, red, orange, and yellow. The colors are crossed with black patterning and tiger stripes.
The Madagascan sunset moth just might be the most beautiful moth in the world. And if you aren’t too familiar with the differences between butterflies and moths, you might think it’s a butterfly at first glance. Its colors do not come from pigments; instead, they are caused by the scattering of light.
3. Garden Tiger Moth
- Latin name: Arctia caja
- Habitat: Cold, temperate regions of the United States, Canada, and Europe.
- Size: Wingspan is usually between 1.8 and 2.6 inches
- Diet: Caterpillars eat a variety of host plants, but they seem to prefer plants that produce toxic compounds. Adults drink the nectar of a variety of flowers.
- Colorful feature: With their wings closed, the adults of this species have a giraffe-like wing pattern. Their hindwings are orange with several blue spots.
This moth’s distinctive patterns serve as a warning to predators. If ingested, the garden tiger moth is poisonous. Experts don’t know exactly how toxic the moth is, but the combination of bright patterns and toxicity seems to keep it relatively safe from predators.
4. Madagascan Moon Moth
- Latin name: Argema mittrei
- Habitat: Primarily in the rainforest of Madagascar
- Size: Wingspan is up to 7.9 inches, while tail length is up to 5.9 inches
- Diet: Caterpillars eat Eugenia and Weinmannia plants. Adults do not eat, as they have a very short lifespan.
- Colorful feature: These huge, beautiful moths are usually bright yellow in color. They have reddish markings, including an eye-like spot on each forewing and hindwing.
These moths are some of the most ephemeral species in the world; once the adults emerge, they only live up to five days! In the wild, they are endangered due to loss of habitat. However, they are able to breed relatively easily in captivity, so it’s unlikely that they will become extinct anytime soon.
5. Atlas Moth
- Latin name: Attacus atlas
- Habitat: Dry forests and scrublands in Southeast Asia, South Asia, and East Asia
- Size: Wingspan is up to 9.4 inches
- Diet: Caterpillars eat guava, citrus, evergreen, and cinnamon plants. Adults do not eat, but they rely on fat stores they gained as caterpillars.
- Colorful feature: These moths have reddish-brown wings with a pattern of purple, pink, black, and white lines. The wings are also marked with a pattern of triangles that appear almost pearlescent. These triangles have no scales, so they appear especially smooth compared to the rest of the wing.
The Atlas moth is among the largest moth species in the world. It has a curved point that looks like a snake’s head at the tip of each wing, which led to its name. In Cantonese, its name means “snake’s head.”
6. Beautiful Wood-Nymph
- Latin name: Eudryas grata
- Habitat: Most habitat types in the eastern part of the United States
- Size: Wingspan is usually between 1.3 and 1.7 inches
- Diet: Caterpillars eat a variety of plants including the Virginia creeper, grapes, and hops. Adults eat many types of decaying things, nectar, and tree sap.
- Colorful feature: These moths have forewings that are patterned in white and chocolate brown. Their hindwings are bright yellow.
The beautiful wood-nymph has an interesting defense mechanism from predators. Instead of relying on threatening colors or patterns, this moth curls up its wings while at rest. Thanks to its primarily brown and white coloring, it looks like a bird dropping, and predators avoid it.
7. European Oak Leafroller
- Latin name: Tortrix viridana
- Habitat: Various habitat types in Britain (as long as there are oak trees present)
- Size: Wingspan is between 0.7 and 0.9 inches
- Diet: Caterpillars eat oak leaf foliage
- Colorful feature: Adults of this species are a bright leafy green. This helps them to camouflage into oak trees.
This moth has a highly descriptive name. While it eats oak leaves as a caterpillar, the oak tree plays a major role in helping it reach its adult form. When ready to form a cocoon, the European oak leafroller caterpillar rolls up a leaf and sits inside.
8. Emperor Moth
- Latin name: Gonimbrasia belina
- Habitat: Warmer areas of southern Africa
- Size: Wingspan is up to about 4.7 inches
- Diet: Caterpillars mostly eat the foliage of the mopane tree.
- Colorful feature: These moths have very bright orange eyespots on the hindwings and forewings. Their wings are also patterned with bright white lines.
Emperor moth caterpillars play an important role in the societies within their range. They are an important protein source. And thanks to the fact that they are especially widespread in Africa, they have a number of vernacular names in different regions.
9. Crimson Tiger Moth
- Latin name: Spilosoma curvata
- Habitat: Various habitat types across Australia
- Size: Wingspan is around 1.5 inches
- Diet: Caterpillars eat a variety of plants, including Lantana and Acanthus.
- Colorful feature: These moths are especially beautiful. Most of the body and wings are yellow, and the wings are marked with black tiger-like stripes. The hindwings are an intense, blush pink color.
This moth is easily one of the most stunning tiger moths on the list. Even with its wings closed, it has an eye-catching tiger-striped pattern. But once it opens its wings, you can easily see where the “crimson” part of the name comes in.
10. Southern Old Lady Moth
- Latin name: Dasypodia selenophora
- Habitat: Usually various habitats in southern Australia, New Zealand, Macquarie Island, and Norfolk Island.
- Size: Wingspan is up to 3.6 inches long
- Diet: Caterpillars mostly eat Acacia plants. Adults prefer liquid food sources like nectar, fruit juices, and even mud.
- Colorful feature: These moths are often a dark brownish color. They have a skirt-like band of darker color along the bottom of the wings, and they also have a large blue eye-like spot on each wing.
This distinctive moth has a tendency to hibernate in human-made structures. It will sit completely motionless for months on end in crevices of garages, barns, and houses. Unlike many moth species, it lays black eggs.
11. Green-Banded Urania
- Latin name: Urania leilus
- Habitat: Rainforest riverbanks in tropical South America
- Size: Wingspan is about 2.8 inches
- Diet: Caterpillars only eat the toxic Omphalea plants.
- Colorful feature: These moths have a black base color, but their wings are crossed by two wide, iridescent green bands and several smaller bands.
The green-banded urania is one of those moths that looks a lot like a butterfly. Because the caterpillars feed exclusively on toxic plants, both the caterpillars and adults are toxic to predators.
12. Middle Lace Border
- Latin name: Scopula decorata
- Habitat: Many habitat types throughout Europe
- Size: Wingspan is between 0.79 and 0.91 inches
- Diet: Its caterpillars feed only on thyme.
- Colorful feature: These moths look a lot like pieces of lace. They are white in color, and as the name suggests, they have a blue and brown pattern that looks a lot like embroidery. Below the “embroidered” part, the wings are patterned to look like the edges of lace fabric.
Every year, the middle lace border moth produces two generations. Between the two generations, they are only active between the months of May and August. This moth also has one of the most widespread ranges on the list; it can be found nearly anywhere in Europe.
13. False Tiger Moth
- Latin name: Dysphania militaris
- Habitat: Tropical regions of South Asia and Southeast Asia
- Size: Wingspan is between 3.1 inches and 3.8 inches
- Diet: Caterpillars feed on a few different tree types, including myrtles and mangroves.
- Colorful feature: This is one of the most colorful moths on the list. Much of its wings are bright yellow with irregular black patterning. But its wingtips are black with white spots.
Not surprisingly, many visitors to Asia who spot a Dysphania militaris assume it is a butterfly. It is part of the moth family Geometridae, a diverse group with plenty of colorful members.
14. Oleander Hawk-Moth
- Latin name: Daphnis nerii
- Habitat: Many areas of Africa, Asia, and the Hawaiian Islands (as long as there are flowers present)
- Size: Wingspan is between 3.5 and 4.3 inches
- Diet: Caterpillars mostly eat oleander plants, while adults prefer the nectar of many different flower species.
- Colorful feature: These moths have a beautiful and distinctive pattern of lime green swirled with an off-white color. The wings also have touches of black and purple.
This moth is native to parts of Africa and Asia, but it has been introduced to Hawaii. Since its caterpillars prefer eating oleander plants, they were the perfect species to help control the spread of oleander, an invasive species in Hawaii. Adults were also useful to help pollinate certain endangered plant species.
15. Golden Emperor Moth
- Latin name: Loepa sikkima
- Habitat: Mostly forested areas of Southeast Asia
- Size: Wingspan is around 2.3 inches
- Diet: Caterpillars eat multiple plant species, including those in the Dillenia genus.
- Colorful feature: This moth certainly lives up to its name. Its base color is a bright golden yellow. Its wings are marked by faint patterning as well as a few bright red spots.
At first glance, this moth looks like a smaller cousin of the massive Madagascan moon moth. Along with other members of its genus, it helps add some color to many parts of Southeast Asia. It’s also part of the startlingly diverse array of species you can find in India’s Western Ghats.
16. Japanese Silk Moth
- Latin name: Antheraea yamamai
- Habitat: Various parts of Southeast Asia, but it has been introduced to parts of southeastern Europe.
- Size: Wingspan is between 4.3 and 5.9 inches
- Diet: Its caterpillars primarily feed on different species of oak.
- Colorful feature: These moths are typically yellow-orange in color, although some are brighter than others. Their wings are marked with prominent eyespots.
As you may have guessed from its name, the Japanese silk moth serves a very important purpose. For over 1,000 years, it has been used to create natural silk. The silk it produces is extremely strong and naturally white. These moths are still cultivated to some extent today, but the silk they make is incredibly rare and is very expensive.
17. Handmaiden Moth
- Latin name: Amata cyssea
- Habitat: Various habitat types throughout Sri Lanka and the Indian subcontinent
- Size: Wingspan is around 1.2 to 1.6 inches
- Diet: Caterpillars often eat plant matter found in leaf litter.
- Colorful feature: These moths have primarily black bodies with three bands of yellow. Each wing has seven whitish spots, which is why it’s sometimes also called the “seven-spotted handmaiden moth.”
The handmaiden moth is one of many “wasp moths” that have evolved to look a lot like wasps. This is a defense strategy that seems to work. While these moths do not sting and are not toxic to predators, most predators are inclined to avoid them.
18. Argent and Sable Moth
- Latin name: Rheumaptera hastata
- Habitat: Hillsides and wetlands across most of Europe, as well as in parts of Asia and North America
- Size: Wingspan usually between 1.3 and 1.5 inches
- Diet: Caterpillars feed on several tree species, including bog myrtle and birch.
- Colorful feature: These striking moths have a base color of black that is colored with a splashy white pattern. Like many similarly-colored moths, this one’s exact patterning varies by individual.
The lovely argent and sable moth looks exotic, but it’s fairly easy to find almost anywhere in Europe. Thanks to its wide range, it has formed several different “races” with some differentiation in patterning.
19. Rustic Sphinx Moth
- Latin name: Manduca rustica
- Habitat: Various habitats (from desert to rainforest) in southern North America, Central America, and parts of South America
- Size: Wingspan is usually between 3 and 5 inches
- Diet: Caterpillars prefer jasmine and Bignonia plants
- Colorful feature: These moths aren’t necessarily bright in color, but they have beautiful and intricate patterning on the wings. Usually, they are marked with dark and light spots that are covered in many zigzag lines.
From a distance, the rustic sphinx moth probably doesn’t seem like it’s much to look at. But the closer you get, the more you realize that this moth actually has a truly beautiful pattern. The pattern does vary some by individual, and males often have more zigzag lines than females do.
20. Southern Flannel Moth
- Latin name: Megalopyge opercularis
- Habitat: Gardens and forested areas in the eastern United States
- Size: Wingspan is usually between 0.7 inches and 1.1 inches
- Diet: Caterpillars prefer both garden plants and trees like oak and elm.
- Colorful feature: These moths are incredibly fuzzy, and their “fur” is often yellowish to golden brown.
These moths may be cute, but make sure you stay away from their caterpillars! The caterpillars are often described as looking like small Persian cats. They have venomous spines that look like fur, and they cause a painful skin reaction. People who have been poisoned by these caterpillars sometimes even compare the pain to that of a broken bone. The effects of the caterpillar’s venom can include abdominal pain, chest pain, nausea, headache, burning, and swelling. Exposure to the venom is very unlikely to be fatal, but it’s best to treat the area as soon as possible after the venom exposure.
21. Death’s-Head Hawkmoth
- Latin name: Acherontia atropos
- Habitat: Primarily various habitat types in Africa, the Mediterranean, and the Middle East
- Size: Wingspan is between 3.5 and 5 inches
- Diet: Caterpillars usually feed on various nightshade plants.
- Colorful feature: These moths are primarily yellow in color, and the abdomen is striped with brown like the abdomen of a wasp or hornet. While it isn’t as colorful as the rest of the body, the skull-like pattern on the head has brought this moth considerable notoriety.
When it comes to media attention and popular culture, the death’s-head hawkmoth is easily the most popular on the list. It has featured prominently in at least three movies: The Silence of the Lambs, The Blood Beast Terror, and Dracula. It also has made an appearance or two in literature. Egar Allan Poe’s short story The Sphinx mentions it briefly. This moth is also part of legend; it’s said to have first been seen in the United Kingdom when King Charles I was executed.
22. Spanish Moon Moth
- Latin name: Graellsia isabellae
- Habitat: Mostly pine forests in France and Spain
- Size: Wingspan is usually between 2.4 and 3.9 inches
- Diet: Caterpillars almost exclusively eat pine needles.
- Colorful feature: These moths look a bit like striped luna moths. Their wings are primarily a soft, light green. They are crossed with several brownish pink lines, and each wing has a large eye-like spot.
Like many other types of moon moths, the males of this species have “tails” reaching out from the hindwings. The color also varies among individuals; while the lines that border and cross the wings are often brownish, they sometimes are a relatively bright pink. The Spanish moon moth is part of the family of silk moths. This moth family spins cocoons out of the fibers that are traditionally used to make true silk.
23. Rosy Footman Moth
- Latin name: Miltochrista miniata
- Habitat: Mostly forested areas in temperate regions of the Palearctic realm
- Size: Wingspan is primarily 0.9 to 1.1 inches
- Diet: The caterpillars eat lichen.
- Colorful feature: These moths have lovely wings that are roughly the color of a rosy sunset. They are usually more yellow toward the center, while the edges have a greater presence of pink. Each wing has a very faint zigzag black line that can be hard to see from a distance.
These moths are somewhat unique in that you’re more likely to find one isolated moth than you are to find a group of them. But like many species of moth, they can only be seen for part of the year; they are typically active only from June to September.
24. Jersey Tiger Moth
- Latin name: Euplagia quadripunctaria
- Habitat: Various habitat types in most of Europe and parts of Asia
- Size: Wingspan is about 2 to 2.6 inches
- Diet: Caterpillars eat a wide range of plant material, including raspberry, dandelion, lettuce, and plantain.
- Colorful feature: Like many types of tiger butterflies, the Jersey tiger has yellowish wings marked with a black pattern that resembles tiger stripes. The hindwings are a very vivid red-orange.
This beautiful species of butterfly has been the target of conservation efforts in the European Union since 1992. Though it sometimes appears scarce, large groups are frequently spotted on the Greek island of Rhodes. Though the Jersey tiger moth is usually active during daylight hours, it has been known to come out at night if it is drawn to a light source.
25. Cinnabar Moth
- Latin name: Tyria jacobaeae
- Habitat: Many habitat types across Europe and Asia, although it has been introduced to North America, New Zealand, and Australia
- Size: Wingspan is about 1.3 to 1.7 inches
- Diet: Caterpillars mostly feed on ragwort plants.
- Colorful feature: The cinnabar moth is one of the most vividly colored on the list. Its forewings are mostly black with red markings, while the hindwings are mostly red.
This moth gets its name from cinnabar, a red-colored mineral. This mineral was historically used to create red pigments, but it’s also used in the production of mercury. And as you may be able to guess from the beauty of the cinnabar moth, its bright red crystals are beautiful enough to be collectible. The cinnabar moth is one of the few moth species that is colored with a high proportion of red. Since its caterpillars eat the ragwort plant, this moth has been used successfully for weed control in some areas.
26. Ailanthus Webworm
- Latin name: Atteva aurea
- Habitat: Mostly tropical regions of the Americas
- Size: Wingspan is between 0.75 and 1.5 inches
- Diet: Mostly paradise tree and a plant (originally from China) called “tree of heaven”
- Colorful feature: These moths have bright pumpkin-orange wings. The wings are spotted with white patches that are outlined with black.
This distinctive moth really doesn’t look like a moth at first glance; it looks more like a beetle. And if that isn’t confusing enough, it looks more like a wasp while it’s flying!
27. White Ermine
- Latin name: Spilosoma lubricipeda
- Habitat: Most temperate regions of Eurasia
- Size: Wingspan ranges from 1.3 to 1.9 inches
- Diet: Caterpillars eat a variety of plants, including alfalfa and stinging nettle
- Colorful feature: These elegant moths almost look like they’re wearing tiny fur costs. They have a white tuft near the head, while their wings are white with small black spots.
These small yet striking moths might seem like an easy target for predators, as the color white often stands out in the natural world. However, they are poisonous to predators. When a bird or other predator sees one of these moths, they are more likely to avoid it entirely.
28. North Queensland Day Moth
- Latin name: Alcides metaurus
- Habitat: Mostly tropical areas in Queensland, Australia
- Size: Wingspan is about 3.9 inches
- Diet: Caterpillars mostly feed on plants from the spurge family, and adults drink nectar from flowers.
- Colorful feature: These beautiful moths have striking bands that may make many people mistake them for butterflies. Their base color is black, and they have broad, iridescent bands of pink, yellow, or both. Their undersides are a soft greenish blue.
Compared to some of the moths on the list, this one has a fairly limited range. And like caterpillars of many other species, caterpillars of the north Queensland day moth feed on poisonous plants. Experts think that may protect them from predators.
29. Snowberry Clearwing Moth
- Latin name: Hemaris diffinis
- Habitat: Various habitat types in parts of both Canada and the United States
- Size: Wingspan is about 1.5 to 2.25 inches
- Diet: Larvae feed on several plants, including snowberry, honeysuckle, cherry, plum, and mint. Adults drink the nectar of several types of flowers.
- Colorful feature: These unusual moths have fuzzy yellow sections on the abdomen that are interrupted by black bands. The wings appear to be clear thanks to their lack of scales.
This unusual moth doesn’t look much like a moth at all. Its clear wings and fuzzy black and yellow body might make some people mistake it for a bumblebee. It is sometimes called the “hummingbird moth” because it flies and looks for nectar. In some areas, it is even called the “flying lobster” because its body has a somewhat lobster-like shape.
30. Black Witch Moth
- Latin name: Ascalapha odorata
- Habitat: Tropical areas of North America, South America, and Brazil
- Size: Males have a wingspan of up to 4.7 inches, while females have a wingspan up to 9.4 inches
- Diet: Caterpillars consume the leaves of plants, especially legumes. Adults usually drink the juice of near-rotten rainforest fruit.
- Colorful feature: At first glance, the black witch moth may seem to be very dull in color. But it’s colorful in a subtle way; the wings have touches of iridescent pink and purple. Each forewing also has a large spot that is typically bright green and orange.
This ominous-looking moth, as its name might suggest, is often associated with death or bad luck. This is the case primarily in some cultures in Central America. In many Central American cultures, it’s believed that a black witch moth entering the home is a harbinger of death or at least a sign of upcoming misfortune.
31. Hercules Moth
- Latin name: Coscinocera hercules
- Habitat: Mostly rainforests of New Guinea and northern Australia
- Size: Wingspan can reach 11 inches
- Diet: Caterpillars eat the leaves of different rainforest trees, while adults do not eat at all.
- Colorful feature: The exact color of these moths can vary depending on the individual. Though they sometimes are dark brown, they also can be an energetic orange-brown. Hercules moths also have a few transparent, triangular spots.
This massive moth isn’t quite the largest in the world by wingspan. However, it does have the largest wing surface area of any insect in the world; its wings have a surface area of 46.5 square inches. Though they are large and beautiful, Hercules moths don’t last long. Adults only live about 10 to 14 days. During that time, they are mostly searching for mates and then laying eggs.
32. White-Lined Sphinx
- Latin name: Hyles lineata
- Habitat: Various habitat types in North America and Central America
- Size: Wingspan is about 2-3 inches
- Diet: Caterpillars feed on a very wide variety of host plants, while adults drink the nectar of many flower types.
- Colorful feature: The forewings of these moths are primarily brownish in color, but the hindwings are especially bright. They are mostly black with a bright pink stripe. White lines along the wing veins also add some visual interest.
The white-lined sphinx is a moth that is often mistakenly called the “hummingbird moth.” It’s easy to see why; it is roughly the size of a hummingbird, and it has flight patterns that very closely resemble that of birds, too. While the adult version of this moth is a helpful pollinator, farmers and gardeners should be wary of its caterpillars. They often feed in large groups, and feeding groups frequently cause extensive damage to crops and garden plants.
33. Lunar Hornet Moth
- Latin name: Sesia bembeciformis
- Habitat: Various habitat types across Europe
- Size: Wingspan is between 1.3 and 1.7 inches
- Diet: Caterpillars eat the leaves of willow trees.
- Colorful feature: These moths have primarily yellow bodies that are banded in black. They also have wings that are primarily clear.
Of all the moths that mimic bees, wasps, and other stinging insects, the lunar hornet moth is probably the most convincing. Its convincing disguise is enough to protect it from most predators, and it’s highly likely to keep humans at bay, too!
34. Six-Spot Burnet Moth
- Latin name: Zygaena filipendulae
- Habitat: Grassy, flowery areas in Europe and Asia Minor
- Size: Wingspan is between 1.2 and 1.6 inches
- Diet: Caterpillars have a range of host plants including lotus, clover, and bird’s foot trefoil. Adults drink the nectar of various flower species.
- Colorful feature: The six-spot burnet moth is another of the relatively few moths to have vivid crimson as one of its colors. These moths are primarily jet black, but their wings are marked with bright red spots.
The six-spot burnet moth’s coloring might be pretty, but it’s also a useful warning to birds, lizards, and other predators: it’s a highly toxic moth species. If it happens to be attacked by a predator, it releases a liquid that contains cyanide. Thanks to its slender body, this is one of the moths on the list that might be mistaken for a beetle or other bug with its wings folded.
35. Scarlet Tiger Moth
- Latin name: Callimorpha dominula
- Habitat: Mostly damp areas in Europe and the Near East
- Size: Wingspan is between 1.8 and 2.2 inches
- Diet: Caterpillars feed on a variety of plants but prefer comfrey. Adults eat the nectar of various plant species.
- Colorful feature: These moths have black forewings with a metallic green sheen. The forewings are covered with spots of white, yellow, orange, or a mixture. The hindwings are bright scarlet red and have a few black dots.
These moths are colorful enough as-is, but they do come in rare morphs. One of these has hindwings that are almost entirely bright yellow. Another has hindwings with more black than moths with the standard coloration have.
36. Purple-Barred Yellow
- Latin name: Lythria cruentaria
- Habitat: Various habitat types across Europe
- Size: Wingspan is between 0.7 and 0.8 inches
- Diet: Caterpillars feed on sorrel and sheep’s sorrel plants.
- Colorful feature: As the name suggests, these moths have yellow wings with purplish barring. On many individuals, the barring looks closer to magenta than it does to purple.
These cheerful-looking moths are widespread and relatively easy to spot in many parts of Europe. And while some moth species only have one or two generations each breeding season, these moths produce three generations. Those generations are active from April to September. Like other geometer moths, purple-barred yellows have caterpillars that many people refer to as “inchworms.”
37. Luna Moth
- Latin name: Actias luna
- Habitat: Most habitat types across North America
- Size: Wingspan is usually about 4.5 inches, but it can exceed 7 inches
- Diet: Caterpillars mostly eat the leaves of different types of broadleaf trees.
- Colorful feature: These beautiful moths have wings that are a soft lime green in color. They often have pinkish-purple bordering at the top of the wings, and they have eye-like spots on forewings and hindwings.
The luna moth may well be one of the most familiar silk moths to those who aren’t very familiar with butterflies and moths. In 1987, the luna moth appeared on a U.S. postage stamp. It was the only moth to be featured on a stamp, although multiple butterfly species had previously been featured.
38. Elephant Hawk-Moth
- Latin name: Deilephila elpenor
- Habitat: Various habitat types throughout the Palearctic, although it is most common in central Europe
- Size: Its wingspan is about 2.4 to 2.8 inches
- Diet: Caterpillars eat various kinds of plant material, while adults drink nectar from a range of flower types.
- Colorful feature: These moths are very unusually colored; their bodies are olive green but are marked with several broad, bright pink streaks.
If you only look at this moth without looking at its caterpillar form, you might wonder why it’s called the elephant hawk moth. While the moth itself looks nothing like an elephant, it gets its name from the caterpillar’s resemblance to an elephant trunk. In its adult form, the elephant hawk-moth is somewhat unique in that it can hover above flowers (rather than land on them) to drink nectar.
39. White Plume Moth
- Latin name: Pterophorus pentadactyla
- Habitat: Usually grasslands throughout much of Europe and the Middle East
- Size: Wingspan is usually between 1 and 1.3 inches
- Diet: Caterpillars feed on bindweed varieties, and they also eat sweet potato leaves.
- Colorful feature: This moth is pure white, although the wispiness of its feather-like wing plumes makes it seem almost transparent.
Plenty of descriptions of the white plume moth call it “eerie” or “scary.” It does look ghostlike. This is largely because each wing is divided into five “plumes” that look like feathers. This moth is also nocturnal, which only adds to its air of mystique.
40. Common Sheep Moth
- Latin name: Hemileuca eglanterina
- Habitat: Various flowery areas of the western United States
- Size: Wingspan is between 2.2 and 3.3 inches
- Diet: Caterpillars feed on plants including rosebushes, buckthorns, and ceanothus. Adults mostly drink nectar.
- Colorful feature: These colorful moths have yellow hindwings with black markings. Their forewings, which also have black markings, are pink with a yellow stripe. One population near Mount Shasta includes individuals that are all black.
This distinctive-looking moth’s colors are reminiscent of summer, which is when it’s most common. And while this moth does not usually occur east of the Sierra Nevada, there is a closely related species, called Nuttal’s sheep moth, that can be found there.
41. Lime Hawk-Moth
- Latin name: Mimas tiliae
- Habitat: Many habitat types throughout the Near East and the Palearctic region
- Size: Wingspan is about 2.8 to 3.1 inches
- Diet: Caterpillars prefer to feed on lime trees, but they will consume a variety of host plants.
- Colorful feature: These moths, at first glance, look a bit like the oleander hawk-moth. However, the lime hawk-moth has a base color of pinkish beige. The wings have several splotches of lime green, and the moth’s abdomen is lime green as well.
Like other hawk moths, the lime hawk moth has a characteristic curved wing shape. While many moth species have triangular wings, this one has wings that extend dramatically outward from the abdomen.
42. White-Striped Black Moth
- Latin name: Trichodezia albovittata
- Habitat: Various habitat types in the northern half of the United States and many parts of Canada
- Size: Wingspan is about 0.8 inches to 1 inch
- Diet: Caterpillars mostly feed on flowering plants of the Impatiens genus.
- Colorful feature: These moths have wings that are nearly all black, but each wing has a bold stripe of very stark white.
These pretty, delicate moths certainly have an eye-catching pattern, but they only get more interesting the closer you get. If you look at the hindwings, you’ll see that they are lined in a short, subtle black fringe.
43. Blotched Emerald Moth
- Latin name: Comibaena bajularia
- Habitat: Mostly oak forests in the Near East and Europe
- Size: Wingspan is about 1.2 to 1.4 inches
- Diet: Caterpillars primarily eat oak leaves.
- Colorful feature: These moths are very descriptively named; their wings are primarily a bright green color, but they are marked with beige and white blotches. The bottom wing edges are lined in beige and have a dark brown “outline” that makes it look as though their edges have been neatly stitched.
The blotched emerald moth caterpillar has a unique and highly effective means of camouflaging itself. On its own, the caterpillar is reddish-brown and can be easy for predators to spot. However, it is able to cover its bristly body with pieces of oak leaves to make it less detectable to predators.
44. Salt and Pepper Moth
- Latin name: Utetheisa lotrix
- Habitat: Most tropical regions of the Old World (Europe, Asia, and Africa)
- Size: Wingspan is about 1.2 inches
- Diet: Its caterpillars primarily eat crotalaria (rattlepod) plants.
- Colorful feature: These moths are especially lively in color. Their forewings have a base color of white, and they are covered with flecks of both red and black.
Thanks to its primary host plant, this unique moth is also called the “crotalaria” moth. And though its forewings have a beautiful combination of red, white, and black, its hindwings are less colorful. They are primarily white, but they do have some black splotching along the edges.
45. White Antenna Wasp Moth
- Latin name: Amata nigriceps
- Habitat: Various habitats in Australia from New South Wales to Queensland
- Size: Wingspan is about 1.2 inches
- Diet: Caterpillars eat a range of available plant material.
- Colorful feature: These moths have wasp-like bodies with alternating bands of black and golden yellow. The wings are black with white spots, though these spots sometimes have a hint of golden yellow.
Amata nigriceps is yet another of the “wasp moths” that convincingly mimic wasps in order to ward off predators. But unlike many other wasp moth species, this one does not have clear wings. But in many cases, the streamlined and banded body is enough to at least give a would-be predator pause.
46. Coffee Clearwing
- Latin name: Cephonodes hylas
- Habitat: Multiple habitat types across Southeast Asia, Sri Lanka, Japan, India, Australia, Africa, the Near East, and the Middle East.
- Size: Wingspan is between 1.8 and 2.9 inches
- Diet: Caterpillars eat a wide range of flowering plants, including Gardenia and Pavetta.
- Colorful feature: These unusual-looking moths have abdomens that are often yellow, green, or both. Their wings are clear and colorless except for the dark-colored veins.
The coffee clearing is another species that does not look much like a moth, at least to the uninitiated. From a distance, it looks a lot like a bee or wasp. Like many similar-looking moths, it has a tubular proboscis that it uses to drink nectar from flowers.
47. Regal Moth
- Latin name: Citheronia regalis
- Habitat: Mostly deciduous forests in the southern United States
- Size: Wingspan is between 3.75 and 6.1 inches
- Diet: Caterpillars feed on the foliage of a range of trees, including hickory, sweetgum, butternut, and persimmon. Adults do not eat at all.
- Colorful feature: These moths have forewings with a greyish base color. The wings are crossed with russet lines and marked with a few large beige spots. The hindwings and abdomen are primarily the same russet color.
The regal moth is certainly spectacular. But unlike many moths, this one also has a spectacular caterpillar. Though this species has a caterpillar that is harmless, it looks formidable: it is large, green, and has multiple sets of orange and black horns. The caterpillar even has its own common name: the hickory horned devil. If you do come across a hickory horned devil, it’s good to know that these caterpillars are among the easiest to handle.
48. Galium Sphinx Moth
- Latin name: Hyles gallii
- Habitat: Usually sandy, sunny, and flowery habitat types in North America, Europe, Japan, and central Asia.
- Size: Wingspan is between 2.2 and 3.1 inches
- Diet: Caterpillars feed on several plants, including fireweed and bedstraw. Adults drink the nectar of flowers.
- Colorful feature: Though the galium sphinx moth has a body that is largely olive green and beige, its hindwings are usually a bright, rosy pink.
The galium sphinx is another moth that has an especially formidable caterpillar. In the later stages, the caterpillar is dark grey-green. It has a series of black patches, each with a bright yellow circle at the center, down its sides. And like the hickory horned devil, it has a small “horn” to help scare off predators.
49. Purple-Bordered Gold
- Latin name: Idaea muricata
- Habitat: Various habitat types across the Palearctic
- Size: Wingspan is between 0.7 and 0.8 inches
- Diet: Caterpillars eat several types of dwarf shrubs and herbs.
- Colorful feature: This delicate-looking moth has a base color that is between magenta and purple. It is marked with several gold splotches. The borders of the wings are also gold, and they have fringe-like edges.
The purple-bordered gold is a moth that almost looks like a scrap of colorful fabric at first glance. That’s probably because of the golden, fringe-like edges of its wings. Its markings are also much softer and less distinct than those of other species, giving it a dreamy and impressionistic look.
50. Io Moth
- Latin name: Automeris io
- Habitat: Various habitat types across Canada and the United States
- Size: Wingspan is between 2.5 and 3.5 inches
- Diet: Caterpillars eat many host plants, including willow, red maple, flowering dogwood, and beech.
- Colorful feature: These moths are primarily yellow, although they have two pink, tuft-like patches on either side of the abdomen. They also have two very large, striking eye-like marks on the hindwings.
As you might have guessed, the eye-like spots on the Io moth are meant to scare away potential predators. Thanks to the size of the eyespots alone, a predator is likely to think it’s being hunted down by an even larger animal. The spots usually range from blue to black in color.
51. Cecropia Silkmoth
- Latin name: Hyalophora cecropia
- Habitat: Most habitat types across most of the United States and Canada
- Size: Wingspan is usually between 5 and 7 inches, although it can be larger
- Diet: Caterpillars eat many types of common trees, including birch, maple, and apple. The adult moths do not eat.
- Colorful feature: These moths have wings that range from grey to brown. They have fairly bright orange markings as well as brown and beige zigzag lines around the wing borders. Additionally, large eyespots help them more effectively scare predators away.
Though there are a handful of enormous moths on the list, the cecropia moth has the distinction of being the largest moth that is native to North America. And like most moths in the giant silk moth family, the adults of this species survive for only about two weeks.
52. Rosy Maple Moth
- Latin name: Dryocampa rubicunda
- Habitat: Mostly deciduous forests across the eastern United States and the eastern part of Canada
- Size: Males have a wingspan up to 1.75 inches while females have a wingspan of up to 2 inches
- Diet: Caterpillars mostly eat the foliage of various maple trees. The adults do not eat.
- Colorful feature: These moths have yellow, woolly bodies. Their wings are patterned in pink and yellow. However, some individuals are much brighter in color than others.
Believe it or not, this tiny moth is in the same silk moth family (Saturniidae) as the cecropia moth. Unsurprisingly, it’s the smallest member of the family.
53. Tau Emperor Moth
- Latin name: Aglia tau
- Habitat: Many habitat types across Europe
- Size: Wingspan is between 2.4 and 3.3 inches
- Diet: The caterpillars eat the foliage of a few different trees, including birch and European beech.
- Colorful feature: These moths have bright orange-brown bodies. Each forewing and hindwing has a bold blue eyespot that is ringed in black.
Many brightly-colored moths have names that are regally inspired, and this one is no different. While all Tau Emperor Moths have the intense blue eyespots mentioned above, some have much brighter wings and bodies than others.
Nature’s Most Colorful Moths
Hopefully, you now have a new appreciation for the humble moth. And while you’ll probably still see plenty of the plain brown moths we’re all familiar with, you just might see one of these colorful creatures the next time you go outside.