moth, any of the large and varied group of insects which, along with the butterflies, make up the order Lepidoptera. The moths comprise the great majority of the 100,000 species of the order, and about 70 of its 80 families. The adult moth, like the butterfly, has sucking mouthparts, two compound eyes, and two pairs of wings that function as a single pair and are covered with flattened, dustlike scales. It is distinguished from butterflies by its stouter, usually hairy body and its unknobbed, often feathery antennae. Most moths are nocturnal in their habits, while butterflies are mostly diurnal. A moth flattens its wings against the surface on which it is resting, while a butterfly holds them horizontally. Moths range in size from species with a wingspread of 1/6 in. (2 mm) to the Atlas moth with a wingspread of 10 in. (25 cm). Many are protectively colored to match their backgrounds: their patterns may exactly resemble, for example, certain lichens or the bark of certain trees. Many others have large, eyelike markings on the hind wings that are thought to frighten potential predators. Moths undergo a complete metamorphosis (see insect), from egg through larva and pupa to adult. Moth larvae, or caterpillars, are wingless and wormlike, with a row of simple eyes on either side of the body. They have chewing mouthparts and feed on leaves or other plant material. Many do great damage, such as the bee moth, the codling moth, the gypsy moth, the clothes moth, and the cutworm. The pupa of most moths is protected by a cocoon, built by the larva just before pupating. The cocoon is often made wholly or largely of silk; the cocoon of the domesticated silkworm moth is the source of commercial silk. Some moths make a cocoon of bits of wood or of a leaf, glued together with silk; some pupate underground. During pupation the body form changes to that of the winged adult. Most adult moths feed on the nectar of flowers, and many plants depend on them for pollination. The short-lived adults of certain species do not eat at all. Among the large and beautiful moths of North America are the cecropia moth, largest of the E United States, and the pale green luna moth. Moths are classified in the phylum Arthropoda, class Insecta, order Lepidoptera.
moth / mô[unvoicedth]/ • n. (pl. moths / mô[voicedth]z; mô[unvoicedth]s/ ) a chiefly nocturnal insect related to the butterflies. It lacks the clubbed antennae of butterflies and typically has a stout body, drab coloration, and wings that fold flat when resting. ∎ inf. short for clothes moth. PHRASES: like a moth to the flame with an irresistible attraction to someone or something.
MOTH (Heb. עָשׁ, ash and סָס, sas; av, jps – "worm"), insect said to eat and destroy clothes (Isa. 51:8; cf. 50:9; Job 13:28). The word ash is also used as a synonym for disintegration and destruction (Hos. 5:12; Ps. 39:12). These names refer to the clothes-moth Tineola, the larva of which feeds on wool. The metamorphosing larva (caterpillar) spins a cocoon, in which it develops into a chrysalis, to be transformed later into an imago. The tottering house of the wicked is compared to a cocoon (Job 27:18). Other species of moth that damage seeds, fruit, and trees are also to be found in Israel. The Talmud speaks of the sasa that infests trees (tj, Ḥag. 2:3, 78a, according to the reading of Ha-Meiri; cf. Yoma 9b: the sas-magor which attacks cedars). The noses that destroys trees (Isa. 10:18) may be the sas, the reference here being to the moth which bores into trees, such as the larvae of the Zeuzera pirina, one of the worst arboreal pests in Israel.
Lewysohn, Zool., 308; F.S. Bodenheimer, Animal and Man in Bible Lands (1960), 78, 114, 140; J. Feliks, Animal World of the Bible (1962), 126f.