Moths That Look (And Sound) Like Hummingbirds!

As they dart from flower to flower in the hunt for nectar, not solely do hummingbird moths appear to be the birds after which they’re named, however in addition they sound like them; the speedy flapping of their wings making a hummingbird–like buzz.

This web page incorporates hummingbird moth information, photos and data. First we’ll discover out about hummingbird moths typically earlier than turning our consideration to the 5 species of hummingbird moth present in america.

Lastly, we’ll check out the associated hummingbird hawk-moth, a species present in Europe (together with the UK), Africa and Asia.

Have you ever seen a hummingbird moth? Report your sighting within the feedback part on the backside of the web page!

Web page Index

What Is A Hummingbird Moth?

A hummingbird moth is one in all quite a lot of species within the sphinx moth household, Sphingidae, that resemble hummingbirds attributable to their dimension, hovering flight fashion and nectar-gathering habits. Many of the moths often called hummingbird moths are members of the genus Hemaris.

Some sphinx moths generally often called hummingbird moths should not of genus Hemaris. These embrace the white-lined sphinx moth Hyles lineata (present in Central and North America), and the hummingbird hawk moth Macroglossum stellatarum (present in Europe, Asia, and northern Africa).

You’ll be able to see totally different species of hummingbird moths additional down the web page, together with the 5 species present in North America.

Yow will discover out what phrases corresponding to ‘genus’ and ‘household’ imply on this web page: Animal Classification.

The hummingbird moth within the video beneath is a hummingbird clearwing moth, Hemaris thysbe. This species is discovered throughout a lot of america and southern Canada.


In complete, there are 23 species of genus Hemaris (supply: Catalog of Life). The sphinx moth household, Sphingidae, which incorporates Hemaris and different hummingbird moths, incorporates 1,605 species (supply: Catalog of Life).

How To Acknowledge A Hummingbird Moth

On the whole, hummingbird moths are simple to acknowledge attributable to their dimension, flying fashion, daylight exercise and nectar-gathering habits. (Pictures of all North American species may be seen additional down the web page.)

Snowberry Clearwing Moth
Snowberry clearwing moth – a hummingbird moth species present in america.


Hummingbird moths are agile fliers, in a position to hover in a single spot in addition to fly backwards and sideways. Their speedy wing actions make a buzzing sound very like that made by a hummingbird.

Resulting from their dimension and flying fashion, the moths may be mistaken for hummingbirds, therefore the identify “hummingbird moth”.


Hummingbird moths are giant moths, with a typical wingspan of 40 – 55 mm (1.6 – 2.2 in.), and physique size of 30 to 51 mm (1.2 – 2 in.)


Hummingbird moths have thick, bumblebee-like our bodies, lengthy wings and an extended proboscis (an extended, hole mouthpart used to drink nectar).

The coloration of hummingbird moths varies from species to species; frequent colours embrace olive inexperienced, rusty reddish brown and yellow. The colours on the animal’s again and underside are sometimes totally different. Many hummingbird moths have horizontal bands or different markings on the physique.

Clearwing Moths

Hummingbird moths of genus Hemaris are also referred to as clearwing moths on behalf of their principally clear wings. Though the wings of clearwing moths are initially lined in scales (like these of different moths), after the primary few flights the scales fall off, leaving the wing panels clear.

Some hummingbird moth species, such because the olive bee hawkmoth Hemaris croatica present in Europe and the Kashmir bee hawkmoth Hemaris Rubra present in Asia, don’t have clear wings.

Day Flying Moths

Not like most moths, hummingbird moths are typically most energetic in the course of the day or round nightfall. June and August are sometimes peak months for exercise. They’re most frequently seen hovering and darting from flower to flower of their seek for nectar.

Some hummingbird moth species, together with the hummingbird clearwing, are migratory.

Antennae & Proboscis

Snowberry clearwing feeding on Monarda plant.
Snowberry clearwing feeding on a Monarda plant.

Hummingbird moths have a pair of lengthy, club-like antennae that often widen in direction of the tip. The proboscis is round twice the size of the physique and is saved tightly coiled when not in use.

Hummingbird Moth Habitat

Hummingbird moths happen in all kinds of habitats, however are mostly present in meadows, cultivated gardens and suburban areas.

Meals Crops

Crops generally eaten by moths of genus Hemaris embrace these of the teasel household, Dipsacaceae, and the honeysuckle household, Caprifoliaceae.

Which Hummingbird Moth Species Are Discovered In North America?

4 hummingbird moths of genus Hemaris are present in North America:

  • Hummingbird clearwing (H. thysbe)
  • Snowberry clearwing (H. diffinis)
  • Slender clearwing (H. gracilis)
  • Rocky Mountain clearwing (H. thetis)

As well as, the white-lined sphinx moth (Hyles lineata) – a hummingbird moth of genus Hyles – is present in North America.

Scroll down the web page or click on right here to see every of the 5 U.S. species of hummingbird moth in better element.

White-lined sphinx moth
White-lined sphinx moth / hummingbird moth, discovered all through a lot of North America. Photograph: Larry Lamsa (cropped/resized by [CC BY 2.0]

In Europe, moths of genus Hemaris are extra generally often called bee hawk-moths. There are three species current in Europe.

The hummingbird moth discovered within the UK is the hummingbird hawk-moth (Macroglossum stellatarum). The species, which can be discovered all through mainland Europe and elements of Africa and Asia, shouldn’t be a member of the genus Hemaris, though it’s within the sphinx moth household, Sphingidae. You’ll be able to examine this species in better element additional down the web page.

Hummingbird Moth Life Cycle

Like all butterflies and moths, a hummingbird moth goes via 4 developmental phases throughout its life: egg, larva, pupa and imago (grownup).

Hummingbird moths breed in the course of the summer time. The feminine produces pheromones to draw a male, and after mating, she finds an acceptable host plant on which to put her eggs. The eggs are often deposited on the underside of a leaf.

hummingbird hawk moth pupa
Hummingbird hawk moth pupa. Photograph: A. M. Liosi (cropped by [CC BY-SA 2.5]

After hatching, the caterpillars feed till they attain their full dimension (often inside a few weeks). They then make their solution to the bottom the place they pupate, forming a cocoon beneath leaf litter or buried within the soil.

In colder areas, a single era is produced every year; in hotter areas, two or three generations could also be produced in a yr.

Relying on the species, an grownup hummingbird moth could dwell so long as seven months or as little as three weeks.

Hummingbird Moth Caterpillars

Hummingbird Clearwing Caterpillar
Hummingbird Clearwing Caterpillar

Hummingbird moth larvae (caterpillars) are amongst a number of varieties of sphinx moth caterpillars often called hornworms because of the horn-like spike that tasks from the rear the physique.

Hummingbird moth caterpillar
White-lined sphinx moth larva. Be aware the horn-like spike on the hind finish of the physique. Photograph: Katja Schulz (cropped by [CC BY 2.0]

Hummingbird moth caterpillars shouldn’t be confused with the plant-damaging tomato hornworm or tobacco hornworm, that are the larval types of the five-spotted hawkmoth and tobacco hawk moth respectively.

The eggs of hummingbird moths are tiny, spherical, and shiny pale inexperienced in colour. The cocoons of most species have a shiny floor.

What Do Hummingbird Moths Eat?

Hummingbird moths feed on nectar, usually looking for out the identical long-necked flowers as hummingbirds.

The moths are notably interested in vegetation within the honeysuckle household, together with viburnum and snowberry. Additionally they feed on the nectar of flowers corresponding to horse mint, beebalm, phlox, verbena, dogbane, cardinal, purple valerian, salvia, and buddleia (butterfly bush).

The caterpillars eat leaves and are extra restricted of their selection of food regimen than the grownup moths. The first host vegetation are hawthorns, cherries, honeysuckles, snowberries, teasels and dogbane.

Are Hummingbird Moths Endangered?

Not one of the hummingbird moth species have been listed by the IUCN as endangered. Nevertheless, some species could also be in decline regionally. For instance, the slender clearwing (H. Gracilis) is taken into account threatened in Connecticut.

Hummingbird Moths Discovered In North America

Hummingbird Clearwing (Hemaris thysbe)

Hummingbird Clearwing Moth
Hummingbird clearwing moth in Virginia. Photograph: Judy Gallagher (cropped by [CC BY 2.0]

The hummingbird clearwing is a species of hummingbird moth present in america and Canada. It’s present in Alaska, throughout Canada, and all through the japanese United States to Texas and Florida.

The species usually has an olive inexperienced head and thorax, burgundy stomach, and pale undersides, though colours fluctuate between people.

Hummingbird Clearwing Moth

The wings have clear central panels and brown / burgundy / olive inexperienced edges. The species’ wingspan is 4 – 5.5 cm (1.6 – 2.2 in)

The hummingbird clearwing may be differentiated from the snowberry clearwing by its pale yellow legs, and by the shortage of banding on the aspect of the thorax.

Snowberry Clearwing (Hemaris diffinis)

Snowberry Clearwing Moth Hummingbird Moth

The snowberry clearwing is called after the snowberry vegetation on which the caterpillar feeds. The snowberry clearwing’s coloration varies from particular person to particular person, however the thorax is often gold or olive-gold, and the stomach black with one or two yellow / gold segments close to the tip.

The gold / black coloration of the snowberry clearwing implies that it will possibly simply be mistaken for a bumblebee.

Snowberry Clearwing Moth Proboscis Showing

The species if most plentiful within the Jap United States and the southeast of Canada, though it has been seen each in California and Alberta, Canada.

The snowberry clearwing may be distinguished from the hummingbird clearwing by the black stripe that stretches from the insect’s head, throughout the attention and beneath the wings on the thorax, and by its black legs.

Rocky Mountain Clearwing / California Clearwing (Hemaris thetis)

Rocky Mountain Clearwing Hummingbird Moth
Rocky Mountain Clearwing Hemaris thetis

As its identify suggests, the Rocky Mountain clearwing is discovered within the western United States. Its vary stretches from southwest Canada to northwest Mexico.

The species’ coloration is various, however usually the top and thorax are olive-green and the stomach is black with a number of adjoining yellow / gold segments.

Slender Clearwing / Sleek Clearwing (Hemaris gracilis)

Slender clearwing
Slender clearwing. Photograph: The Trustees of the Pure Historical past Museum, London (cropped by [CC BY 3.0]

The slender clearwing is similar to the hummingbird clearwing, having an olive head and thorax and burgundy stomach.

The slender clearwing may be recognized by the skinny white band across the stomach the place it meets the thorax; the red-brown stripe working alongside the aspect of the thorax from behind the attention and beneath the wings to the stomach; and the red-brown colour of the higher floor of its legs.

The species is especially discovered within the japanese United States.

White-Lined Sphinx (Hyles lineata)

White-lined sphinx moths
Hummingbird moths / white lined sphinx moths on showy milkweed at Seedskadee Nationwide Wildlife Refuge, Wyoming.

With a wingspan of between 2 and three inches, the grownup white-lined sphinx is bigger than the hummingbird moths of genus Hemaris present in america. It’s also extra prone to be seen flying at nightfall and in the course of the evening than the day-flying clearwings.

Within the video beneath, a white-line sphinx moth may be seen flying from flower to flower in the hunt for nectar.

The species’ lengthy forewings are darkish brown and black, with a white central stripe and a number of other thinner cross-stripes. The hindwings are black with a large pink central stripe. The stomach is marked with a number of white and black stripes.

The white-lined sphinx is discovered all through america in addition to in southern Canada and Central America.

Different Hummingbird Moths

Hummingbird Hawk-Moth (Macroglossum stellatarum)

Hummingbird hawk moth
Hummingbird hawk moth in Bulgaria. Photograph: Charles J Sharp [CC BY-SA 4.0]

The hummingbird hawk-moth is a sphinx moth present in Europe, Asia, and Africa. It’s comparable in look to hummingbird moths (though it doesn’t have clear wings), however shouldn’t be within the genus Hemaris.

Within the UK the hummingbird hawk moth is seen from late spring to early autumn. It has orange-brown wings, gray head and thorax, and black stomach with white patches. The undersides of the top and thorax are white / gray. The wingspan ranges from 50 to 58 mm.

As its identify suggests, the hummingbird hawk moth resembles a hummingbird when foraging, because it hovers, and darts sideways and backwards because it flies from flower to flower. Just like the hummingbird moths of genus Hemaris, it additionally makes a buzzing sound when flying.

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