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10 Fascinating Facts About The Hummingbird Moth

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10 Fascinating Facts About The Hummingbird Moth

Is it a bird or a bug? It buzzes, hovers, and flies like a hummingbird from flower to flower. There’s something about this rapid wing-beating creature that may just cause you to do a double take. It’s one of the most fascinating insects (yes, it’s an insect!) to roam the garden, and we’ve got facts about hummingbird moth that are sure to amaze!

10 Fascinating Facts About The Hummingbird Moth

  1. Hummingbird moth is the common name used for the numerous types of hummingbird moth species which include: Hummingbird Hawk-Moth, Sphinx moth, Common Clearwing Hummingbird moth, Snowberry Clearwing Hummingbird moth, Five-Spotted Hawkmoth, and White-Lined Sphinx.
  2. Just like the hummingbird, the hummingbird moth’s buzzing and humming sound is created by its rapid wing movement.
  3. The next time you spot a hornworm caterpillar munching on your plants, you are looking at a future hummingbird moth. This caterpillar is named for its hornlike appendages.
  4. The moths featured in the 1991 film, The Silence of the Lambs were “death’s-head hawk” moths, a type of hummingbird moth. According to IMDb, the moths were treated like celebrities. “They were flown first class… and had special living quarters.”
  5. The fast-moving hummingbird moth has a rapid wingbeat up to 70 beats per second (depending on the species), enabling it to fly up to 12 mph.
  6. Instead of a beak like a hummingbird, it has a long tongue-like proboscis that rolls out of its coiled tube to reach the nectar deep inside flowers. Its tongue is about double the length of the moth’s body.
  7. It has large, menacing eyes that appear to warn predators to keep their distance. Also protecting it from potential predators is its close resemblance to a bird, instead of a bug.
  8. They range in length from 2—2.5 inches long and are covered in gray hair that resembles feathers, with white, rust or brown markings or variations. Their wingspan ranges from 2 to 6 inches depending on the species. The Snowberry Clearwing moth has clear wings.
  9. The hummingbird moth can be found not only in North America, but in Europe, Africa, and Asia.
  10. After mating, the female moth lays eggs on plant leaves such as honeysuckle, cherries, hawthorns, and viburnums. The hatched caterpillar feeds on its host bush or vine.
  11. These moths actively feed on flower nectar in the daytime, but you may also get a glimpse of one feeding at dusk on night-blooming flowers such as the evening primrose or night blooming jasmine.

Have you seen one of these fascinating creatures? Tell us in the comments below!

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26 comments

1 Tiffany D { 05.19.19 at 8:48 am }

I saw two of these little buggers, early this morning, flying around together. They were very friendly. They kept trying to land on me. They had a real pretty blue color and strips of yellow near their wings. I’ve seen red ones before but never this color on them. Thank you for helping me identify them.

2 Genni Pratt { 05.18.19 at 12:55 am }

We used to get them in the evening when we had honeysuckle a few years ago. We lost those plants to sparrows. Recently replaced the plants with more honeysuckle and last week we had the divine pleasure of watching the return of the beautiful hummingbird moths. BTW, really enjoyed the article.

3 PENELOPE { 05.16.19 at 8:45 pm }

As a young child I lived in a suburb of Dallas Texas called Pleasant Grove. I can still remember the fascination and awe I felt the first time I saw them zipping and zooming through my moms snap dragons. I just knew I had finally seen the till then elusive hummingbird. I was able to catch one and put it in my bug collector cage my grandpa had made for me. I was so excited to show him my treasure. He of course cleared up my confusion and told me all about them. I was even more impressed they were moths. Nature is always surprising me.

4 Tammy { 05.15.19 at 7:08 am }

When I first saw it around my bushes I thought it was a hummingbird…then not so sure. The crazy thing is it would land on my hand and fingers and just “float there”. My husband couldn’t believe it. We’ve got pictures of it just hovering all around me. I had to walk back to bushes twice to get it to stay there and not follow me in the house. It was a large one, we figured 3 1/2 inches long and so beautiful. Very interesting to read some info on it!

5 Jacqueline Meadows { 05.14.19 at 10:59 pm }

I saw a hummingbird moth and thought it was a small humming bird. It was flying on one of our ground flowers in garden. It was very busy collecting necter. Very fascinating. I live in SLC Utah.

6 Pat { 05.12.19 at 10:38 am }

They love lilac flowers also here .Very fascinating and fun to watch.The first time I seen them I really taught it was baby H . birds .I never knew what they looked like as a caterpillar but seen these was back .Thanks that is a great read .

7 philip { 05.09.19 at 1:35 pm }

We usually have one or two every year in our butterfly bushes. Very interesting to watch, and they never seem to be afraid of us.

8 Lisa { 05.07.19 at 10:28 pm }

I see Hummingbird moths every summer feeding in the evening on my Four-o-Clock’s. Interesting little creatures.

9 Harold Keener { 05.07.19 at 5:00 pm }

My Mom said they were hummingbird babies. Didn’t have the heart to tell her she was wrong.

10 Lindy { 05.05.19 at 2:47 pm }

This last week, we have seen hundreds of them in our front and back yards in the southernmost tip of Nevada, nectaring.

11 Bob { 05.04.19 at 8:59 am }

Saw a clear wing in my garden, South Jersey. Thought it was a bee at first glance but saw what looked like tail feathers and an odd flight pattern for a bee. Neat little thing.

12 Judith W. { 03.19.19 at 2:17 pm }

Walking with my granddaughter last night and thought we were looking at a flock of young Hummingbirds. We were amazed to actually find out they were moths when we got closer. Fearless creatures, came right up to us then went back to eating. According to my granddaughter “THIS IS AWSOME!!!”

13 Judi { 03.11.19 at 9:00 am }

I live on the West Coast in South Africa and I have a huge Lavendar Bush in the front garden, I just saw this beautiful creature for the first time today and was in such awe as I was so so close to it that I had to google it, as it turns out my garden is perfect as I have many tomato vines in the garden also.

14 Liza { 01.31.19 at 6:29 pm }

I live in Hobe Sound, Florida. Just saw one for the first time. It was feeding on my “fancy” lavender plants in a planter outside my window. The sun had just set on a very wet and cloudy day so it was hard to see the details. But wow! It was really “getting down” on those purple flowers for a good 10 minutes. Hope it comes back with some friends!

15 Guadalupe { 12.18.18 at 2:42 pm }

I’ve had to be in front of our local library right about daybreak and happened to be around when two of these flitted by me.I thought they were baby hummingbirds and later looked up pictures of baby hummingbirds and found the pics of the moths!They seem to fly by to retrieve nectar from some primrose plants in front of the library. They are really something to watch!

16 Susan Higgins { 11.12.18 at 9:02 am }

Hi Suzanne, no need to do anything. The moth will find a food source.

17 Suzanne { 11.10.18 at 8:12 pm }

I have a hummingbird moth that just hatched and I’m not sure what to do with it since there are no flowers this time of year and it snowed. Any advice?

18 Mike K { 10.30.18 at 11:08 pm }

We had 4 of them visit our lilac bushes this year in May at dusk, it was a fluke that I seen them at all and perhaps it was not the first time (year) they were here. They were fascinating to watch, at first glance I thought they were hummingbirds. The most incredible part is that we live near Cold Lake, Alberta, Canada

19 Bo { 09.19.18 at 12:56 pm }

I fist saw them here, outside of Houston Tx. on my butterfly bush. I honestly thought they were some type of Hummingbird. They also liked my Mimosa tree. Upon closer examination I realized they were not a hummingbird. I had never seen them before. Fascinating creature/insect. I wonder what there life cycle is.

20 Sue { 09.14.18 at 12:26 am }

I first saw these wonderful creatures about 3 years ago. It was near dusk and my 4 O’Clock bushes were alive with the butterfly moth. Never having seen one before I of course, went on the internet to find out what I was seeing.
They always seem to be interested in what I am doing, and will fly around me. I don’t know where mine are during the day time especially as there aren’t many other homes in our small neighborhood that have flower beds. And surrounding us are pine trees. I’m jus glad to be able to provide them with nectar.
I was sorry to read that they are destructive caterpillars, I have seen some and would usually take them down to the pond for the fish. But next time I think I’ll see if my grandsons would like to raise them! I may even try my hand at it too.

21 Jessie Hart { 09.13.18 at 5:52 am }

I have video of hummingbird moths in northeastern minnesota. They are awesome to see…… i wish i could share it here

22 Susan Higgins { 09.12.18 at 12:32 pm }

Hi Hunter, yes, the video does say the wings beat “over 30 times per second” but we found that to be closer to 70, depending on the species. We know tomato/tobacco hornworms are destructive but decided to focus this article on the interesting moth they become, which are a delight to many.

23 Hunter { 09.12.18 at 11:22 am }

This was interesting — we often have hummingbird moths in our gardens. However, the facts in the video differ from the those in the article. Might want to check what’s what. What really bothered me was the negligence in explaining how the life cycle might affect your plants/shrubs. While in the caterpillar phase, this creatures completely defoliates tomato plants — but no mention in your article. Then it mentions that the insect will lay its eggs on certain shrubs, which are then prone to being defoliated by the caterpillar. Since these aren’t native to North America, it bears mentioning that they are not good transplants.

24 LXXXI { 09.12.18 at 10:20 am }

Susan, imagine a man yelling at his boss “They looked like fairies”! Each time I tried with more conviction. I just kept getting that look. When I realized I was frustrated and was about the flip the desk over I changed the subject.

I had hoped providing the proof got me off any red flag list he may have had.

They were extremely fascinating. It was the first and last time I have ever seen them.

25 Susan Higgins { 09.11.18 at 11:34 am }

Hi Elija! Thanks for sharing your encounter with these creatures. We got a good chuckle. They’re fascinating, aren’t they? Glad you enjoyed the story.

26 LXXXI { 09.11.18 at 11:12 am }

Long time ago I was a Security Guard. One of the properties was a Golf Course. When I approached the main roundabout in the middle was a good sized bush with flowers. I don’t know what kind of bush it was. But there were hummingbird like creatures swarming around it. Their eyes lit up with a dull orange when the light from the golf cart hit them. I swore maybe I had stumbled upon fairies. They were curious about my presence because they kept looking in my direction. When I got real close they would take off. It was a magical night…

I tried to tell my boss about the situation. I just got a what were you smoking look from him.

I went to the Internet and sure enough Hummingbird Moths it was. I printed it off to show my boss, I wasn’t seeing things that weren’t there.

He told me he was wondering what I was smoking. Of course, that’s the way deputy sheriff’s think. If he only knew… Which I’m sure it did..

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