Lepidoptera

Eurema hecabe

Eurema hecabe © J.M.Garg

Lepidoptera is a large group containing butterflies and moths. Currently there are more than 157,000 described species with at least as many as this still undescribed.

Life cycle

Lepidoptera have a holometabolous life cycle, meaning they have four separate stages: 

  • egg
  • larva
  • pupa
  • adult

A few species lack males, meaning the females are parthenogenetic, which allows them to successfully reproduce without having mated (virgin birth). 

Hummingbird hawkmoth
Lepidoptera research

Lepidoptera contain butterflies and moths. Learn about our research in their fascinating evolution. 

About the name

The name Lepidoptera means 'scale wings'. This refers to the characteristic feature that distinguishes them from most other insects: the presence of coloured scales on the wings. 

Graphium weiskei, The Purple-Spotted Swallowtail
Lepidoptera collections

The Natural History Museum’s collections of Lepidoptera contain approximately 8,712,000 specimens in 80,000 drawers.