Moths go through 4 life stages, and how long each of these last depends on the species of butterflies and a total lifespan of a moth. In general, they live between 1 and 6 months from egg to adult.
Overview of Moth Life Cycle
Moths pass through complete metamorphosis before they reach the stage similar to adult butterflies. This means their life cycle has 4 stages:
- Moth eggs
- Adult moths
However, each of these cycles and the average lifespan differs based on the species of moths. Generally, male moths have fewer days to live than female moths, but they both live from 1 to 6 months.
For example, a Brown house moth lives up to 4 months. On the other hand, Silkworm moths live for a week or two. Additionally, some moths are born without a mouth, and that drastically reduces their lifespan. Here’s how moths transform through their four life stages.
How Long Do Moths Stay in an Egg?
Female moths start the process when they lay eggs — sometimes hundreds of them. Some female moths will die shortly after, depending on their genetic makeup. The eggs will remain unprotected while the baby moth receives nutrients.
Unfortunately, a very small number of moths survive this stage. Nature tends to kill about 98% of all eggs before they go to the next stage. This is why female moths lay so many eggs.
Baby moths will remain in the egg during the next 4 days, sometimes up to 10 days, depending on the species. Humidity and temperature levels affect how long moths stay in this stage and when the egg hatches.
How Long Do Moths Live as a Larvae?
The next stage is the most destructive one, especially if you’re thinking about moth infestation. This is the moment when moth caterpillars eat anything they find nutritious. The larvae will munch away all the food sources and grow.
Larvae won’t stop until it becomes a cocoon. However, this process can last from 2 months to several years. For example, Clothes moth larvae can remain in that stage for 2.5 years. This is why clothing moths are an issue — they easily survive the cold months eating away your clothes. (Eventually, you’ll have to call pest control).
In this case, both nature and humans affect the stage length and survival rate. Habitat, climate, and weather affect the larval stage. If larvae find enough nutrients and aren’t destroyed by humans, it has a decent chance of survival. However, some reports show certain species have up to 74.76% mortality rate (egg, larvae, and pupae combined).
How Long Do Moths Stay as a Pupa?
Once the temperatures get higher, larvae will move on to the pupa stage. Moths in the pupation stage are usually hidden from sight, so you may not notice that this stage occurred. On average, the pupal stage lasts up to 50 days, but in some species (Clothes or Carpet moths), it may take only 10 days.
Temperature and humidity are the main factors that affect how long the moth will stay in the cocoon. Additionally, the place where pupae are located also affects the survival rate. For example, one research showed that pine beauty moth pupae that spent winter in needle litter had a higher survival rate than pupae located in soil or peat. There was a 100% mortality rate at a temperature of -20° C.
How Long Do Moths Live as an Adult?
Most species of moths will get out of their cocoon after about 10 days. A few hours after, it will be ready to fly around. Freshly hatched moths are highly vulnerable while they wait for their wings to dry, which affects their lifespan. Still, some species manage to live up to a whole year. High temperatures during the summer months drastically drop the survival rate in the adult stage.
Female moths will die after laying eggs, while male moths will do so after mating. Some species can hibernate and overwinter in a sheltered spot. This can extend their lifespan. Unfortunately, adult moths can’t eat or drink, so their only goal is to find a good place for their eggs to survive.
List of Moth Life Span by Species
So far, you know that different moths have different life spans. Here’s how long some types of moths live:
|Pantry moths||1 to 2 weeks|
|White-lined sphinx moth||10 to 30 days|
|Hummingbird hawk moth||7 months|
|Luna moth||1 week|
|Atlas moth||5 to 7 days|
|Giant leopard moth||1 to 3 years|
|Rosy maple moth||2 to 9 months|
Does Touching a Moth’s Wings Kill It?
You might believe that touching a moth’s wings will lead to a shorter lifespan. This is not quite true. Both moths are butterflies that have wings that are covered in tiny scales that overlap. These scales make butterflies and moths aerodynamic and give them wing patterns.
Some of these scales will transfer to your fingers when you touch these insects. Depending on how many scales the insect has lost, it may have some difficulties flying, but it won’t die. Some species of butterflies have a low number of scales, so their wings aren’t that different from those of other insects.
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Mileva is a friendly butterfly and nature lover. She enjoys spending time outdoors and getting to know different types of insects, animals and plants. She’s always curious and learning new things, and she shares her love of nature on Butterfly Hobbyist.