Science, Tech, Math › Animals & Nature Butterflies and Moths, Order Lepidoptera Share Flipboard Email Print Flickr user Angelo Rossi (CC license) Animals & Nature Insects Butterflies & Moths Basics Behavior & Communication Ants. Bees, & Wasps Beetles Spiders Ticks & Mites True Bugs, Aphids, Cicadas, and Hoppers Amphibians Birds Habitat Profiles Mammals Reptiles Wildlife Conservation Marine Life Forestry Dinosaurs Evolution View More By Debbie Hadley Entomology Expert B.A., Political Science, Rutgers University Debbie Hadley is a science educator with 25 years of experience who has written on science topics for over a decade. our editorial process Debbie Hadley Updated January 22, 2020 The name Lepidoptera means “scale wings.” Take a close look at the wings of these insects and you will see overlapping scales, like shingles on a roof. The order Lepidoptera includes butterflies and moths and is the second-largest group in the insect world. Description The scaly wings of Lepidopteran insects come in two pairs and are often quite colorful. To identify a specific butterfly or moth, you will usually need to look at the colors and unique markings on the wings. Insects in this group have large compound eyes. Above each compound eye is a simple eye called an ocellus. Adult Lepidoptera has mouthparts formed into a sucking tube, or proboscis, which is used to drink nectar. The larvae, commonly called caterpillars, have chewing mouthparts and are herbivorous. Butterflies and moths can be differentiated by looking at the shape of their antennae. Habitat and Distribution Butterflies and moths live in a variety of land habitats on every continent except Antarctica. Their distribution is dependent on their food source. Habitat must provide the appropriate host plants for the caterpillars, and good nectar sources for the adults. Major Families in the Order Nymphalidae: brush-footed butterfliesPapillionidae: swallowtailsHesperiidae: skippersSaturniidae: giant silk mothsLymantriidae: tussock mothsNoctuidae: loopers, owlet moths, and underwings Species of Interest Danaus plexippus, the monarch butterfly, is the only butterfly in the world to migrate in two directions.Ornithoptera alexandrae (Queen Alexandra’s Birdwing) is the world’s largest butterfly, with a wingspan of up to 12 inches.Bombyx mori is no longer found in the wild. The Silkworm moth has been bred in captivity for thousands of years.Actias luna, the Luna moth, is one of the most beautiful and colorful moths. It is a common moth in the eastern U.S.