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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, humming sound is created by its rapid wing movement.
  3. The next time you spot a tomato hornworm (also known as a tobacco hornworm) caterpillar munching on your tomato 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, are a type of this 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, this moth 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 hummingbird 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. Hummingbird 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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11 comments

1 Susan Higgins { 11.12.18 at 9:02 am }

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

2 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?

3 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

4 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.

5 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.

6 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

7 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.

8 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.

9 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.

10 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.

11 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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