5 Bizarre Facts About Moths

Face to face with the giant leopard moth, Hypercompe scribonia in Westmoreland State Park, Virginia. Scott Clark/ MNN Flickr Group

We usually think of moths as these drab brown or gray winged creatures that batter themselves against the front porch light. But actually moths come in an incredible array of colors, with patterns and designs on their wings that rival the most beautiful butterflies. That's not all that's surprising about moths. Check out these five amazing facts about them.

1. Many species of moths don't eat. At least not once they hit the adult stage. They feast when they are caterpillars, but when they transform to adults, they live for a matter of days — just enough time to mate, lay eggs and die — and don't eat at all during that time. In fact, some moths emerge from the cocoon without even a mouth. Why bother having one when you aren't going to use it?

2. Moths are incredibly good at mimicking other objects as a form of camouflage. In fact, some species even mimic the appearance of bird poop. They look like an unappetizing splatter left on a leaf, rather than any sort of tasty morsel a predator might want to eat. Other moth species have evolved to mimic the appearance of wasps, preying mantis and even tarantulas.

3. Moths have an incredible sense of smell. But they don't have noses. So how do they do it? Their antennae. The antennae are highly sensitive. The male giant silk moth can "smell" females as far as seven miles away! They use their antennae to sense molecules of a female moth's sex hormone and then zero in from impressive distances. Females aren't too shabby themselves. Researchers discovered that female moths can use the scent of a male's pheromones to determine his reproductive fitness right down to his ancestry!

4. Moths love beer. No, really! The Nature Conservancy writes, "Nothing attracts these guys like beer. A tip from our scientists: Mix a paste of beer, brown sugar, and banana. Paint it on some trees, kick back and relax, then check back in the evening with your flashlight to see the multitude of moths you’re sure to attract."

5. There are nine times more moths species than butterfly species. According to the Smithsonian, "There are some 160,000 of moths in the world, compared to 17,500 of butterflies. In the United States, there are nearly 11,000 of moths."

So the next time you think moths are the boring cousins of butterflies, think again!