We usually think of moths as drab brown 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 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

Photo: Anton_Ivanov/Shutterstock

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Lime hawk-moth: This camouflaged species is found in the Palearctic region and Near East, even into Eastern Canada.

Lime hawk-moth

Photo: Marek R. Swadzba /Shutterstock

Twin-spotted sphinx moth: This species can be found throughout North America, except (interestingly), no where in the southern half or western California.

twin-spotted sphinx moth

Photo: Ian Maton /Shutterstock

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

oleander hawk-moth

Photo: 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

Photo: StevenRussellSmithPhotos /Shutterstock

Garden tiger moth: The vivid pattern on this moth is also meant to ward of predators, giving warning that the moth is poisonous to eat.

garden tiger moth

Photo: Damian Money /Shutterstock

Gallium sphinx moth: This huge moth has a wingspan that can reach an impressive 5.5 to 8 centimeters. It feeds on flowers at dusk.

gallium sphinx moth

Photo: Ian Maton /Shutterstock

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

rosy maple moth

Photo: StevenRussellSmithPhotos /Shutterstock

Dysphania militaris moths: Easy to mistake for butterflies, this moth species is found in southeast Asia and is also called the false tiger moth. 

dysphania militaris moths

Photo: Matee Nuserm /Shutterstock

Cecropia moths: This giant silk moth species 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 moths

Photo: Cathy Keifer /Shutterstock

Noctuidae moth: This family of moths is 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

Photo: 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

Photo: 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

Photo: 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

Photo: CyberKat/Shutterstock

White-lined sphinx moth: This large species found from Canada down through Central America can be spotted from April through October as it flits, hummingbird-like, from flower to flower as it feeds.

white lined sphinx moth

Photo: Ian Maton /Shutterstock

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

luna moth

Photo: 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 is said to be named after Atlas of Greek mythology, but their Cantonese name translates to "snake's head mouth" after the snake-like profile in the coloration of the outer edges of their top wings.

giant atlas moth

Photo: fotoedu/Shutterstock

Pellucid hawk-moth: This unusual species leaves the beautiful coloring to its body, while keeping its wings a minimalist accessory.

pellucid hawk moth

Photo: Matee Nuserm /Shutterstock

Elephant hawk-moth: This surprisingly bright species is found across parts of Europe and Asia from Ireland to Japan. Its coloring is what gives it its name, with the wings spread out like two large ears. Notice 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

Photo: Reinhold Leitner /Shutterstock

Japanese silk moth: Endemic to Japan, this silk moth has made its way around the world as an import of the silk trade and 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

And 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!

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Jaymi Heimbuch ( @jaymiheimbuch ) focuses on wildlife conservation and animal news from her home base in San Francisco.