Welcome to our first blog post. Although I am more of a garden enthusiast than a garden expert, I am always learning new things and would like to share some of them with our customer base. Gardening is a life-long learning opportunity.
Meet the Hummingbird Moth
In July, I was watering my petunias and was delighted by my first sighting of a hummingbird moth. It flies much like a hummingbird, hovering in place and flitting from flower to flower, but its body looks like a large bumblebee. The body was at least two inches long, with brown and pale orange markings. Each wing had brownish tips and a nearly translucent center segment. The antennae were half as long as its body and it had a curled “tongue” or proboscis that unfurls to reach deep into the flower to gather nectar. My best guess is that this variety is Hummingbird Clearwing, otherwise known as Hemaris thisbe, which is more commonly found in the eastern and northeastern United States. There is a similar variety known as Hemaris diffinis that is more common in the western United States. Like the hummingbird, this moth’s wings beat so fast you can’t see them until they pause, and its rapid movement makes it difficult to photograph. The moths are attracted to bright tubular shaped flowers to feed such as phlox, beebalm, honeysuckle and verbena, or in this example—petunia.
The hummingbird moth is frequently cited as an example of convergent evolution. Two entirely different species – insect and bird – have developed similar features and behaviors that help them evade predators and thrive.
Although sightings are infrequent in my area, several varieties are found through the United States and parts of Europe and are typically seen in the warm summer months, April – August. They tend to be more active in the morning or late evening hours, although I saw this one mid-day in July when it was overcast and cooler. They lay eggs that look like a green bubble on the bottom side of leaves, and when the eggs hatch they turn into a type of hornworm caterpillar. Fortunately, these are not the same hornworms that love to munch on my tomatoes. They eventually pupate into unappetizing looking cocoons at the soil surface. They overwinter in nooks and crannies to emerge as adults when the weather warms.
For more scholarly details about the Humming-bird Hawk-Moth see the following video and articles: