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Hummingbird Moth - Insect or Bird Newsletter
 

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Hummingbird Moth - Insect or Bird?


Photo by D. Compton

An interesting recent question:

Q: I had a very strange bug (?) visiting my yard. It looks like a cross between a moth and a hummingbird.

And another:

Q: I have a Meyers lemon tree full of blooms and this little guy went flying by my head, not shy at all, having a ball. Saw a picture someone sent in on Facebook to you. Can you give me information on this little bird? Never saw one before now and what a treat for me to see.


Photo by M. Ridgeway

It's actually a very pretty moth.

Hummingbird Moth or Clearwing Moth

Hemaris thysbe

Description: Beautiful moths that look like hummingbirds. Wingspan 1 1/2-2" (38-50 mm). Wings initially plum-red to brownish black, but scales drop off after 1st flight, leaving clear areas devoid of scales, except along veins. The body is spindle-shaped, mostly olive-green with plum-red bands across abdomen and rear tufts. Caterpillar is yellowish green with darker green lines and reddish-brown spots on abdomen and with yellow tail horn.

Life Cycle: Caterpillar feeds on foliage of plants of the honeysuckle family and others.

Flight: April - September.

Habitat: Forest edges, meadows, and cultivated flower gardens.

Range: Coast to coast in the North; also east of the Great Plains south to the Gulf.

Discussion: This moth hovers over flowers in full sunlight, producing a buzz with its wings similar to but softer than that of a hummingbird similarly engaged. There are two generations a year.

Life History: Adults fly during the day, and hover at flowers to sip nectar. Caterpillars pupate in cocoons spun at the soil surface.

Flight: Two broods in the south from March - June and August - October, one brood in the north from April - August.

Caterpillar hosts: Honeysuckle (Lonicera), snowberry (Symphoricarpos), hawthorns (Crataegus), cherries and plums (Prunus), and European cranberry bush (Viburnum opulus).

Adult food: Nectar from a wide variety of plants including Japanese honeysuckle, beebalm, red clover, lilac, phlox, snowberry, cranberry, blueberry, vetch, and thistles.

Habitat: Open and second-growth habitats, gardens, and suburbs.

Range: Alaska and the Northwest Territories south through British Columbia to Oregon; east through the Great Plains and the Great Lakes area to Maine and Newfoundland; south to Florida and Texas.

Here's an excellent site for more information on this wonderful insect.
http://www.silkmoths.bizland.com/hthysbe.htm

If you have any questions on this newsletter or any other topic, tune in Sunday 8 am - 11 am (CST) to the Dirt Doctor Radio Show. Listen on the internet or find a station in your area. The phone number for the show is1-866-444-3478.

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Naturally yours,

Howard Garrett


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