A brightly colored creature flits quickly from flower to flower. A bumble bee? No, too large. A butterfly? Not quite; it’s too fast and has smaller, transparent wings. If only the creature would hold still long enough for you to get a good look. And that’s when you think: hummingbird!
Good guess but that isn’t it, either. This unique beauty is a day-flying moth called the Hummingbird or Clearwing Moth (Hemaris thysbe). With a wingspan of about two inches, the Hummingbird Moth not only mimics a hummingbird in size and jeweled colors, it also behaves like one. Flying in a darting manner, it hovers as it unfurls a coiled tongue to sip nectar from a blossom, like this thistle. The Hummingbird Moth feeds on a wide variety of flowers in gardens, meadows and shrub lands. As it feeds, the moth gets dusted with pollen and then unknowingly performs a service for the plant when it brings the pollen to a neighboring blossom and fertilizes it.
The Hummingbird Moth may occasionally land on a flower, which actual hummingbirds rarely do. If you manage to see a Hummingbird Moth in action, note its prominent antennae and the setae (or bristles) at the end of its abdomen, which look like a lobster tail.
All moths and butterflies spend an earlier part of their lives as a caterpillar larva. The Hummingbird Moth larva might be found on cherries, plums, hawthorn or honeysuckle. It is important to leave caterpillars to their own devices, so that later in the year we can enjoy their colorful adult forms.