Bernheim Pollinators: The Hummingbird Clearwing Moth

By Whitney Wurzel

When thinking about moths, most people picture reclusive creatures that emerge after dusk. The Hummingbird Clearwing Moth (Hemaris thysbe) does not fit that definition. This moth is most active during hot, sunny days, and is often seen zipping around gardens. At first glance, it truly looks like a hummingbird; its coloring is similar and it quickly flies from flower to flower, hovering at each one as it uses its tongue to sip the nectar. It even buzzes like a hummingbird!

However, if it stays still long enough for you to get a good look, you’ll see its antennae, curled proboscis, and clear wings. It is a mid-sized moth, having a wingspan of over two inches and a plump body. Its color varies, though typically it has an olive green thorax, burgundy abdomen, and reddish wings with a clear center.

The Hummingbird Clearwing is an excellent pollinator, and loves long-necked flowers it can drink the nectar from. For this reason it is commonly found in open areas like meadows and gardens. Some of its favorite flowers to visit are beebalm, phlox, verbena, butterfly bush, and varieties of honeysuckle. Clearwings are typically seen April through August, so look for this unusual beauty wherever there are flowers at Bernheim!

Be sure to watch one in action below (thanks to Bernheim Executive Director, Dr. Mark Wourms for the video)

Olivia Belk, Education Assistant

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