Sunday, March 30, 2008

Hummingbird Clearwing Moth

Hummingbird Clearwing Moth , Hemaris thysbe, nectaring on Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica).

They are sometimes called hawk moths, and are in the same family as those most unwelcome guests, the tomato hornworms.


Thysbe (Thisbe) in myth: the Greek version of Juliet.

One web source suggests that Hemaris comes from the root haem (blood), but another says it derives from the Greek hemera (day). See here.

A hornworm on your viburnum is probably this species. Leave it! It won't eat much. And it turns into this enchanting creature.


I wondered whether this moth's wing motion was the same as a hummingbird's. The second photo would seem to suggest it, but I couldn't find confirmation on the internet.


Phill said...

Wow! That last pic even got a shot of the wings fairly cleanly! Excellent pics! I love hummingbirds. We have them near us in the country, but the house is so new to us, I have yet to put out feeders and actually see one "live." Thanks for the pics.

Cathy said...

Bluebells, Clearwing moths . . . Waaahhhh.

The pixes and links are so nice.

I had a housefly land on my leg yesterday as I sat in my car with the window down. That's about it, this far north ;0)

Anonymous said...

Wonderful! Thank you.

Anonymous said...

AH! Maybe those hornworms are unwelcome to your tomatoes, but I ssure you the local predators love them. I have also heard that they make OK eating for people too.

Let me know how that goes.


lisa said...

Nice pics! I'm with Cathy...I want my spring already, dammit! Anyhow, I notice more of these moths since I quit using chemicals and synthetic fertilizers, sooo worth it!

farmlady said...

Oh my... these photos are beautiful!! What camera are you using? What speed? I need a new camera. I have a Canon Power Shot A520. Please take a look at my blog and see what I do. Any advise would be appreciated.

DeeMom said...

I was taking a walk about today and I do believe I saw the beginnings of our Virginia Bluebells, not only a favorite Spring flower of mine but one the Hummingbird moth loves

Your pictures are as always Wonderful

DeeMom said...

A hastened PS...
I finally figured out how to link some of the Blogs I really enjoy. I do believe this will be an additional help for me to visit your blog more often.

I have too many times lost your blog link, I hope this meets with your approval

Anonymous said...

These are such wonderful moths and Ilove the colors you capture in these shots!

Randy said...

Wonderful photos! And the story of Pyramus and Thisbe and the Mulberry has alwyas been a favorite of mine.

anne said...


I love these photos! And - I am oh, ever so jealous! Indeed, as Cathy said - bluebells, clearwing moths...waaahhhh. I'm right there with her on that!

Gorgeous. Just gorgeous.

Unknown said...

That is amazing.

Lynn Coulter said...

Your pix are so beautiful! Do you use an automatic camera or a manual? I am trying to become a better photographer.

The hummingbird moth is just fantastic--thanks for sharing!

Annie in Austin said...

Hi Rurality,

These are truly wonderful photos of the hawk moth - here in Austin I've enjoyed seeing white-lined sphinx larvae on gaura and the moth on the moon vine. What I don't get to see are Virginia bluebells - now I wonder if my little patch in Illinois is still there - you caught their petal texture and color just beautifully!

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

Rurality said...

CM, thanks, we need to get our feeders up for when the real hummers arrive... any day now.

Cathy, I hope it won't be long now for you til spring is there. The annoying gnats and mosquitoes are already out in force here.

Thanks Lorianne! I spied another one after I posted this. He looked a little smaller, but was not in the mood to linger so I couldn't ID him.

TF, umm, I'll let you try that first! But yeah we did have birds coming to the garden to help eat those hornworms. Indigo buntings made the biggest dent in them, I think.

Lisa, I have to admit I never would have thought that synthetic fertilizers would have anything to do with them! Interesting. It is very difficult here to find organic fertilizer unless you make it yourself.

Farmlady, the camera I'm using now is a Nikon D200. Some of the pics are with my husband's camera though, a Sony Cyber-shot DSC W90. The pictures (in March) of the "devil sign" and the "rocky top" pics were taken with that camera. I almost always let the camera figure its own settings!

DM, I can still remember how excited I was to find bluebells on our property here. They are so cool!

Toms, thanks, I think I was really lucky that this guy wasn't in too big a hurry.

R&J, thanks! It was a new story to me... I'm always learning about mythology whenever I look up botanical names!

Anne, thanks! Yeah I know spring has arrived but good when I see the bluebells blooming. :)

Jill, thanks! I remember the first time I saw one of these moths I really did think it was a humingbird.

Thanks Lynne, well the camera is a digital SLR, but to tell you the truth I leave it auto most of the time. But I like having the features that I can change if I need to. I took several "special studies" photography courses years ago and really learned a lot. And had a lot of fun too.

Annie, thanks -- but y'all have the bluebonnets there, right?!

Anonymous said...

You did a wonderful job capturing the hummingbird moth. They are so fast and hard to photograph, especially because they often come out at dusk.

Have you ever heard them referred to as sphinx moths? Still, hawk moth is the most common name around here (Austin).

farmlady said...

Thanks for the info. I think it's time for a better camera, but I do like the convenience of my Power Shot. Keep taking the great photos.

Pamela said...

In late fall we enjoy the beauty of hummingbird moths (A picture I took fall of 06)

but these come from tomato worms. Those worms are sooooo ugly.

R.Powers said...

Wow, wow,wow!

Anonymous said...

THanks for the information and pictures. My friend and I found one of these moths this evening in PA for the first time in our lives (43 and 51 years) YOu answered our question.

Anonymous said...

I had one of these on my bee balm. It is an astounding insect, very striking and beautiful - the wings are practically invisible while beating and it hovers like a hummingbird would. The bee balm is a big favorite of beneficial insects in my back yard and the hummingbird clearwing was a real treat - I'd recommend the plant to anyone who likes insects.
This was toward the end of July, Boston-area in Massachusetts.

BTW beautiful pictures.

Anonymous said...

city mouse,the pics u saw were not humming birds they were humming bird moths or the hummingbird clear wing moth. if u have a butterfly bush you will see them all the time.they visit the butterfly bush all the time at my house.