Moth Life Cycle: Introduction and Basic Moth Identification Features (For CBSE, ICSE, IAS, NET, NRA 2022)

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Introduction to Moth

  • Moths are a paraphyletic group of insects.
  • If a group consists of the group՚s last common ancestor and all descendants of that ancestor excluding a few typically only one or two monophyletic subgroups, it is called paraphyletic.
  • It includes all members of the order Lepidoptera that are not butterflies.
    • Moths making up much of the order.
  • Most of the species are nocturnal. There are also crepuscular (active primarily during the twilight period) and diurnal (a form of plant or animal behavior characterized by activity during daytime, with a period of sleeping or other inactivity at night) species as well.

Basic Moth Identification Features

Basic Moth Identification Features

Life Cycle of a Moth

Life Cycle of a Moth

Stage 1: The Egg-Embryonic Stage

  • At this stage, the embryo develops inside of the egg.
  • At this stage both the male and female moth mate.
    • Resulting in the fertilization of the eggs inside of the female moth.
  • The fertilized female lays eggs near an area with plants after mating.
  • Over a period of 30 days, an embryo develops inside the eggs.
  • A female moth can lay up to 50 eggs in two weeks.
  • Accelerates the growth of the larvae into a caterpillar embryo.

Proper environmental conditions:

  • Warm temperature
  • Humidity

Stage 2: Larva – Larval Stage (Caterpillar)

  • The shell contains a lot of proteins, vitamins, and other nutrients.
    • Caterpillar needs to survive, develop, and grow.
  • The newly hatched caterpillar or larva feeds on the shell.
  • The moment larva hatches, it is called its first instar.
  • The caterpillar:
    • Undergoes stages of molting and shedding of skin.
    • Eats the cuticle that remains after molting.
  • Till the pupa stage is reached, the process of feeding and molting continues.
  • The length of time a caterpillar stays in the larval stage varies from one species to another.

Stage 3: Pupa – Pupal Stage

  • At this stage, the caterpillar transforms itself into a fully grown adult moth, wings, and all.
  • A moth in its pupal stage is referred to as being in its cocoon.
  • The structure which a butterfly builds around itself is called a chrysalis when it is in its pupal stage.
  • The cocoon is where the larva will transform itself into the fully grown moth.
  • The caterpillar at this stage:
    • Ability to spin a type of silk that it creates from its own proteins.
    • Breaking down of tissues known as histolysis occurs during the pupa stage.
    • The moth is void of feeding and does not move.
    • The caterpillar transforms into a moth with wings and comes out of the cocoon after two weeks or so.

Stage 4: Adult Moth – Imaginal Stage

  • At this stage, the moth has wings and can fly around.
  • An adult moth is technically called an imago.
  • The adult moth is soft, weak, and quite fragile currently.
  • The fully grown moth is also known as imago.
    • Breaks out of the cocoon with a swollen abdomen and shriveled wings.
  • The moth flies out to feed and mate once the fragile wings of the newly born moth become more firm and rigid.
  • Depending on the kind of species, the life expectancy of a moth varies.
    • Some species live for weeks, some live for months and the others live up to 10 weeks.


Q 1. How many stages are there in the Life Cycle of a Moth?


There are four stages in the Life Cycle of a Moth.

i) Stage 1: The Egg-Embryonic Stage

ii) Stage 2: Larva – Larval Stage (Caterpillar)

iii) Stage 3: Pupa – Pupal Stage

iv) Stage 4: Adult Moth – Imaginal Stage

Q 2. How the life expectancy of a moth does vary?

Answer: Some species of moth live for weeks, some live for months and the others live up to 10 weeks.

Q 3. What is the name of the largest and the smallest moth in the world?

Answer: Atlas Moth found in parts of South Asia and Nepticulidae Moth are the largest and smallest moth in the world.

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