Monday, July 19, 2010

Hummingbird Clearwing Moth

If you look carefully in flower gardens and meadows, you might find one of these large insects. Easily mistaken for a bee or hummingbird, it is actually a moth. This is a Hummingbird Clearwing (Hemaris thysbe), one of several clearwing moth species. I found several of these moths working the same patch of Monarda at Willowwood Arboretum on Saturday.

Clearwing moths are members of the family Sphingidae, made up of hawk and sphinx moths. Adult clearwings hover like hummingbirds as they sip nectar from flowers. Unlike most moth species, clearwings are active during the day and are easily seen.

One other clearwing species is common in my area – Snowberry Clearwing. The two species can be distinguished by their wing patterns. Hummingbird Clearwings have a partial dark crossband running through the clear area of their wings, and the border between the clear and dark area on the trailing edge of the wings looks more jagged. Snowberry Clearwings lack the crossband and have a smooth border between light and dark areas.