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Clearwing Hummingbird Moth
Clearwing Hummingbird and Other Moths
One may think there's a tiny little baby hummingbird flying among the flowers, but more than likely it's a Hummingbird Clearwing Moth.
This moth will feed during the day and it's shape, coloration and scaleless wings give it the appearance of a small hummingbird. There are two common varieties of this attractive and interesting member of the Sphinx moth family.
Here we explore Hummingbird Moths (and a few other Sphinx Moths) as well as some of the big, beautiful Moths, like the Luna Moth. You'll also find a plant list for a "Moon Garden", with descriptions and photos of night blooming and fragrant plants that are sure to please the senses and bring in some beautiful moths and maybe an insect eating bat or two.
All photos (unless otherwise noted) are the property of Y.L. Bordelon aka naturegirl7, All Rights Reserved
Many of the photos seen here can be purchased in Naturegirl7's Zazzle Shop as print-on-demand products such as posters, cards, apparel, mugs, etc.
Hummingbird Moth on Pickerel Weed
Moths are Insects and belong to the Order Lepidoptera, which includes both Moths and Butterflies. There are about 100 families of moths with hundreds of genera (plural of genus) and over 150,000 species. Moths live in all parts of the world, except in the very cold mountaintops and polar regions. Most Moths live in the tropics.
Moths and Butterflies are very much alike, but there are several characteristics that Moths have that Butterflies don't:
- Moths usually have less colorful wings.
- Moths have furrier bodies.
- The antennas of moths are feathery or threadlike.
- Most Moths fly at night. One exception to this rule is the Clearwing Hummingbird Moth.
Like Butterflies, Moths go through a metamorphosis where the young change completely before becoming adults.
Description and Habits
The two types of North American Hummingbird Moths are very hard to tell apart. One type is the Hummingbird Clearwing Moth, which (as you can tell by its name) resembles a small hummingbird. The other is the Snowberry Clearwing Moth which actually looks more like a large bumblebee, than a hummingbird. The ranges of both species overlap quite a bit, so you can have both in a given location. Both species have fast moving, scaleless wings and furry bodies with large abdomens with coloration similar to that of a hummingbird. The scales on the wings are rubbed off in flight soon after it emerges from the pupa.
Like other butterflies and moths, its mouth part is a straw-like siphoning, feeding tube called a proboscis. But, unlike most other moths, the Hummingbird Moths fly and feed during daylight hours in open woodlands, fields, gardens and backyards between March and September.
In the north, this moth has at least 2 broods of young and in Louisiana there are six broods every thirty days beginning in March. One pale green egg is deposited on the underside of a leaf and the small larvae stay hidden on the leaf vein. The larvae pupate in thin walled cocoons on the ground under leaf litter.
Rustic Sphinx Moth Caterpillar
Peterson First Guide to Caterpillars
This children's book will help answer many questions on nature walks.
There are many different types of Sphinx Moths and each one uses specific plants to raise its young. For example, the Rustic Sphinx lays its eggs on only Fringe Trees and Jasmine. The photo above shows a very large Rustic Sphinx caterpillar dining on Fringe Tree leaves. You can see the green olive like fruit of this female Fringe tree.
Sphinx moths get their name because, when the larvae is disturbed, it elevates the front part of its body and assumes a Sphinx-like position. The larvae of many sphinx moths are known as hornworms because of the horn or spike that is attached to the last segment of their body.
The Tomato Hormworm (Five-spotted Hawk Moth) and the Tobacco Hornworm (Carolina Sphinx Moth) are harmful to the crops they are named for. The name "Hawk moth" and Sphinx moth are both used, but hawk moths are actually another group in the family.
The Sphinx Moth pictured below is a Pink Spotted Hawk Moth. It's larvae is called sweet potato hornworm because it feeds on sweet potato vines. The flower that the adult moth is drinking nectar from is pink ginger.
Pink Spotted Hawk Moth on Pink Ginger
Eye Witness Butterfly and Moth
Eye Witness children's books contain wonderful illustrations and cover the subject well.
The Hummingbird Clearwing Moth - Hemaris thysbe belongs to the order Lepidoptera / Suborder Macrolepidoptera / Superfamily Sphingoidea / Family Sphingidae, common names: hawk moths, hornworms or sphinx moths. Species Hemaris thysbe (Fabricius) also called common clear-wing, hummingbird moth or sphinx colibri
Its range goes as far north as Alaska, east to Maine and Newfoundland and south to Florida and Texas. Adults are reddish-brown and green and have a wingspan of about two inches. The caterpillars eat viburnum, hawthorn, honeysuckle, buckbrush, wild cherry and plum and a few other types of fruit trees.
Adults hover and sip nectar at many different flowers, including honeysuckle, beebalm, phlox, lilac and blueberry and milkweed. One of the sure ways to tell a Hummingbird Moth from a Hummingbird is that the moth will often rest on the flower while it drinks.
The Snowberry Clearwing Moth - Hemaris diffinis is in the order Lepidoptera and family Sphingidae. It is about 1.25 to 2 inches. It actually looks more like a large bumblebee than a hummingbird. The name probably comes from the humming sound its wings make that is similar to that of a hummingbird. Another difference from the Hummingbird Clearwing is that the Snowberry's abdomen has yellow and black segments like a bumblebee. In its larval stage it eats plants such as honeysuckle, viburnum, hawthorn, snowberry, cherry, and plum.
Peterson First Guide
Peterson guides are excellent and this first guide will be perfect for a budding naturalist.
Hummingbird Moth Video
Hummingbird Moth Poll
Have you ever seen a Hummingbird Clearwing Moth?
Learn about the beautiful moths than dwell in your yard.
© 2008 Yvonne L. B.