The sexes of moths find each other by the use of pheromones (scent hormones). This is why the males often have pectinate (feathered) antennae. The larger surface area of these antennae allows easier detection of the pheromones. Some species can detect females from more than a kilometre away.


Unlike most moths, butterflies depend mainly on sight to find each other, although scent is still used in their courtship.


Lepidoptera go through several stages before they become an imago (adult). The eggs of some moths, such as the swifts, are scattered in flight over the food plants, while others are placed carefully on the leaves of a specific food plant, either singly, or in neat rows.


The larvae or caterpillars of Lepidoptera are mainly vegetarian, although some species such as the Orange-tip Anthocharis cardamines, Dunbar Cosmia trapezina and some of the wainscots are predatory, or even cannibalistic. 


The intermediate stage between the larva and imago is the pupa or chrysalis. Some species pass this stage within a silken cocoon between leaves of the food plant, or buried in the leaf litter. Others hang the chrysalis upright from the rear end, or in a silken harness. Many species pass the winter as pupae, although others may go through as eggs, larvae or adults.

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Lepidoptera introduction

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