20 Moth Species More Beautiful Than Butterflies

The elephant hawk-moth ranges from the British Isles to Japan. D. Kucharski K. Kucharska/Shutterstock

We usually think of moths as drab, fluttery things that incessantly bonk into light bulbs with annoying yet almost admirable persistence. But that's really not the case when you look farther than, well, the average light bulb. Moths are found around the world, and they come in a spectacular range of sizes, shapes, and colors — often giving even the most beautiful butterflies a run for their money.

Here are 20 of the most beautiful moths from around the world:

Comet Moth

A species native to Madagascar and one of the world's largest silk moths.

comet moth
Comet moth, or Madagascan moon moth. Anton Ivanov/Shutterstock

Lime Hawk-Moth

This camouflaged species is found in the Palearctic region and Near East, even into Eastern Canada.

lime hawk moth
Lime hawk-moth. Marek R. Swadzba/Shutterstock

Twin-Spotted Sphinx Moth

This species can be found throughout North America, except (interestingly) nowhere in the southern half or western California.

Twin-spotted sphinx moth
Twin-spotted sphinx moth. Ian Maton/Shutterstock

Oleander Hawk-Moth

This species is also known as the Army green moth, for rather obvious reasons.

Oleander hawk-moth
Oleander hawk-moth. Matee Nuserm/Shutterstock

Io Moth

With eye-like spots on its lower wings, this species can appear like an animal much larger than it really is, helping to ward off predators.

Io moth
Io moth. StevenRussellSmithPhotos/Shutterstock

Garden Tiger Moth

The vivid pattern on this moth is also meant to ward off predators, warning that the moth is poisonous to eat.

Garden tiger moth
Garden tiger moth. Damian Money/Shutterstock

Gallium Sphinx Moth

This huge moth has a wingspan that can reach an impressive 8 centimeters. It feeds on flowers at dusk.

Gallium sphinx moth
Gallium sphinx moth. Ian Maton/Shutterstock

Rosy Maple Moth

These colorful North American moths feed on maples, including red, silver and sugar maple — sometimes to the point of becoming pests.

Rosy maple moth
Rosy maple moth. StevenRussellSmithPhotos/Shutterstock

Dysphania Militaris Moth

Easy to mistake for a butterfly, this moth species is found in southeast Asia and is also called the false tiger moth.

Dysphania militaris moths
Dysphania militaris moths. Matee Nuserm/Shutterstock

Cecropia Moth

This giant silk moth is North America's largest native moth. Like other giant silk-moth species, they are only meant to reproduce when they make it to the adult stage, so they lack a digestive system and live only about two weeks.

Cecropia moth
Cecropia moth. Cathy Keifer/Shutterstock

Noctuidae Moth

This family of moths are also called owlet moths, of which there are an estimated 35,000 species. While most have drab wings meant for camouflage, some have brightly colored lower wings, such as this species.

Noctuidae moth
Noctuidae moth. Nikolay71/Shutterstock

Giant Leopard Moth

This flashy species is also called the eyed tiger moth. Its large wingspan of nearly 8 centimeters gives it plenty of room to flash the patterns on its wings.

Giant leopard moth
Giant leopard moth. StevenRussellSmithPhotos/Shutterstock

Rothschildia Aurota

This species prefers to keep things formal with no common English name. It is found in North and South America.

Rothschildia aurota
Rothschildia aurota. Neil Hardwick/Shutterstock

Emperor Moth

This lovely species is found throughout the Palearctic region and in the British Isles. The males usually fly around during the day looking for females, which usually only fly at night. Odd, but the timing seems to work for the species.

Emperor moth
Emperor moth. CyberKat/Shutterstock

White-Lined Sphinx Moth

This large species is found from Canada to Central America, and can be spotted from April through October as it flits, hummingbird-like, from flower to flower.

White-lined sphinx moth
White-lined sphinx moth. Ian Maton/Shutterstock

Luna Moth

The wingspan of this moth can exceed 11 centimeters, making it one of the largest moth species in North America. The huge wings make it all the easier to show off that beautiful light green coloration.

Luna moth
Luna moth. Matt Jeppson/Shutterstock

Giant Atlas Moth

Curious which is the largest moth in the world? It's this, the giant atlas moth. Its wingspan reaches over 25 centimeters (or 10 inches)! It's said to be named after Atlas of Greek mythology, but its Cantonese name translates to "snake's head mouth" after the snake-like profile along the outer edges of its top wings.

Giant atlas moth
Giant atlas moth. 135pixels/Shutterstock

Pellucid Hawk-Moth

This unusual species leaves the beautiful coloring to its body, while keeping its wings a minimalist accessory.

Pellucid hawk-moth
Pellucid hawk-moth. Matee Nuserm/Shutterstock

Elephant Hawk-Moth

This vivid species lives in parts of Europe and Asia from Ireland to Japan. Its name refers to some elephant-like aspects of its body, such as wings that spread out like two large ears. Notice how the pink spots on the body look like the outline of eyes at the top, and lead down the body as if it were a long trunk.

Elephant hawk-moth
Elephant hawk-moth. Reinhold Leitner/Shutterstock

Japanese Silk Moth

Native to Japan, this silk moth has made its way around the world as an import of the silk trade. It can now be found in southeastern Europe and is spreading north. It has been part of the silk trade for more than 1,000 years.

Japanese silk moth
Japanese silk moth. Marco Uliana/Shutterstock

This list doesn't even begin to cover the range of beautiful and fascinating-looking moths out there. If you ever want to spend a few hours pleasantly shocked, look up moth species. They're spectacular!