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Have You Seen Any Hummingbird Clearwing Moths?

Posted on Aug 28, 2013

Hummingbird Clearwing Moths (Hemaris thysbe) are nectaring at the same plants that actual hummingbirds are seen at lately. If you think you’re seeing an unusually small hummer in your flower garden, look again. It may be one of these incredible day-flying moths! We tend to think of moths as nocturnal creatures but certain species are active during the day having evolved traits to help them survive and prosper. Many people have reported seeing these imitators in their yards in the last month. We have seen a lot during our field work at places such as the grasslands and fields of the Jamestown Airport.


Clearwing moths are very much built like hummingbirds – they have the same rapid wingbeats and ability to hover and move in nearly any direction. They can drink nectar while hovering in place through a long proboscis, a slender tube-like organ that serves as their own personal straw. This ability means they do not have to land or sit on any plants or flowers and leave themselves vulnerable to attack from a praying mantis or spider and makes it easier to prevent an attack from a bird or mammal as they can escape much more rapidly as they maintain their aerial motions. While there are definitely a lot of hummingbirds in our gardens at this time of year keep an eye out for one of these incredible moth masqueraders.


Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation & Outreach Coordinator

Photo © Twan Leenders