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Any of more than 150,000 lepidopteran species, found in all but polar habitats. Moths are chiefly nocturnal and have a stouter body, duller colouring, and proportionately smaller wings than butterflies. They have distinctive feathery antennae and, when at rest, fold their wings, wrap them around the body, or hold them extended at their sides. Wingspans range from about 4 mm (0.16 in.) to nearly 30 cm (about 1 ft). The life cycle has four stages: egg, larva (caterpillar, or worm), pupa (chrysalis), and adult (imago). Both larvae and adults of most species are plant eaters, and many seriously damage forests, agricultural crops, and fabrics. See alsobagworm moth; gypsy moth; hawk moth; luna moth; miller; saturniid moth; silkworm moth; tiger moth; tussock moth.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on moth, visit Britannica.com.