What a pleasant surprise to find this visitor in my garden. While watering my plants I noticed something flying around and at first I thought it was a hummingbird hovering over my flowers. But after watching this busy “creature” for a short time I knew it was the “hummer look-alike” moth who has fast beating wings and moves just like a hummingbird. Take a close look at the photos as he is furry just like a bird but in fact is an insect.
There are 4 species of hummingbird moths in North America. The one I saw is called the Snowberry Clearwing Moth, a rather large moth from the Sphinx Moth Family. Adults average 2 inches long and from a distance some say they look like a big bee. In the north where I live, specifically Michigan, these moths only have one brood as the season is short. In the south they have two broods; mid spring and midsummer into late fall. Unlike hummingbirds these moths are late risers, waiting until the sun warms their wings. I saw this little guy mid afternoon.
Some of their favorite flowers include bee balm, phlox, honeysuckle and verbena. Keep this in mind if you would like to attract these special moths to your garden. He sips his nectar like hummingbirds with his long tongue (see picture below) and are said to sound like hummingbirds. Because of their very long tongues (that they keep rolled up under their chins) they can reach the nectar inaccessible to many other flower visitors. They do pollinate flowers similar to hummingbirds. Did you know that long proboscis (tongue) sucks nectar like a straw, where as hummers lick?
One special difference though was the fact I was able to get up real close to this little guy – he was not bothered by my presence either and did not fly away like the skittish hummingbird does. My camera was loaded with my “up close” lens and I had to get very close to it to get a clear and focused picture. Unfortunately, I did not get a good side picture of him as he was flying. He did not budge but in the pictures does it look like he is “peeking at me” with those big eyes that are on the top/back of his head? Hmm – first the Cope’s Gray Tree Frog, Peek-A-Boo and now this beautiful moth!
So, if you’re lucky to have these moths visit your gardens, welcome them with open arms and marvel at their beauty…