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.
Lime hawk-moth: This camouflaged species is found in the Palearctic region and Near East, even into Eastern Canada.
Twin-spotted sphinx moth: This species can be found throughout North America, except (interestingly) nowhere in the southern half or western California.
Oleander hawk-moth: This species is also known as the Army green moth, for rather obvious reasons.
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.
Garden tiger moth: The vivid pattern on this moth is also meant to ward off predators, warning that the moth is poisonous to eat.
Gallium sphinx moth: This huge moth has a wingspan that can reach an impressive 8 centimeters. It feeds on flowers at dusk.
Rosy maple moth: These colorful North American moths feed on maples, including red, silver and sugar maple — sometimes to the point of becoming pests.
Dysphania militaris moth: Easy to mistake for butterflies, this moth species is found in southeast Asia and is also called the false tiger moth.
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.
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.
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.
Rothschildia aurota: This species prefers to keep things formal with no common English name. It is found in North and South America.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Pellucid hawk-moth: This unusual species leaves the beautiful coloring to its body, while keeping its wings a minimalist accessory.
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.
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.
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!