Hemaris moths gracing home gardens

Editor’s note: This article is from the archives of the MSU Crop Advisory Team Alerts. Check the label of any pesticide referenced to ensure your use is included.

Pretty much every summer about this time, I get calls from folks who are very excited to report something they are seeing in the gardens that looks and behaves much like a hummingbird, except it can’t be a hummingbird because it has two antennae. Two species of sphinx moths known as the hummingbird clearwing, Hemaris thysbe and the snowberry clearwing, H. diffinis feed on nectar during the day much like a humming bird does. Both species occur throughout the eastern United States and are common in open woodlands, fields and gardens in Michigan.

The snowberry clearwing is slightly smaller of the two and is considered more of a bumblebee mimic because of its yellowish body and dark wings. Snowberry larvae are reported to feed on honeysuckle, dogbane and buckbrush. Adults eat from many flowers, including thistles, milkweed and lilac.

The hummingbird clearwing is reddish brown and has a wingspan of about 1.5 inches to 2.25 inches. Its larvae feed on honeysuckle, buckbrush, wild cherry and plum. Adults hover and sip nectar at many different flowers, including honeysuckle, beebalm, phlox, lilac and blueberry and milkweed.

The hummingbird clearwing can be seen working on flowers on YouTube at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QoppxSg7n30
See great photos of both species at: http://www.forestryimages.org/search/action.cfm?q=hemaris

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