Lepidoptera is one of the largest insect orders. It comprises around 180,000 recognised species, but the actual figure is probably closer to 300,000! It holds over 100 separate families, with butterflies only accounting for roughly 10% of the group.
Butterflies and moths undergo a type of development called complete metamorphosis. This means they take 4 different forms throughout their lives: the egg, caterpillar, cocoon and adult.
As caterpillars, butterflies and moths can be plant pests. Some species are much worse than others, with many caterpillars feeding on the same plant at once. Caterpillar pests can defoliate plants quickly when foraging in groups. Likewise, larger caterpillars can do more damage when there's a few of them.
Lepidoptera can translate to mean "scale" (lepís) and "wing" (pterón). The reason behind this is because all members have tiny scales that cover the wings and body. The wing scales cover the body and wings, giving the insects their colour and texture.
There's approximately 11,000 moths and 750
known butterfly species in the USA.