Tuesday, August 24, 2010

It’s a Bird, a Plane…It’s a Hummingbird Clearwing Moth!

While taking pictures this week of my kitchen garden critters I spotted this feller (or maybe gal) on the ‘Blue Chip’ buddleia (dwarf butterfly bush). I snapped a couple of pictures so I could get a better look later and to help with the identification.

At first I thought perhaps it was a cicada killer which is exciting in its own right but it acted more like a mini hummingbird as it flitted from bloom to bloom and it had a fuzzy body. When I looked at the pictures on the computer screen I realized it was indeed something else. I did some ‘thumbing through’ the internet and found out it is a hummingbird clearwing moth.
The hummingbird clearwing moth or Hemaris thysbe, if you will are unusual in the fact that most of their cousins in the sphinx moth family are nocturnal whereas this little gem likes to be seen in the day and flies about meadows, forest edges and flower gardens. With a wingspan of about 1 ½ to 2 inches they dart from bloom to bloom in a hurried feeding frenzy that tends to blur their distinctive clear wings.

Many people mistake this moth for baby hummingbirds which now explains all the stories I have heard from excited gardeners about teeny tiny hummingbirds visiting their flowers. If in doubt look for antennae and a spindle-shaped body…you may have to look fast or try my trick and take a picture so you can slow them down and get a close up look on the computer screen.

In early spring, females lay eggs on the undersides of leaves. The larvae that hatch have an obvious horn on the rear end and they’re especially partial to cherry, hawthorn and plum trees…good to know there is another use for the wild pit cherry trees besides propagating more cherry trees in all the wrong places in my yard. Here in the south there is often a second brood to hatch in late summer or fall.

1 comment:

meemsnyc said...

Oooh, what a cool moth! I can see why they are mistaken for hummingbirds!