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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!

58 comments

1 Lenda Utzman { 07.15.19 at 10:11 pm }

I am 62 and never seen anything like this before! I was escorting company out my back door at about 9pm Georgia, USA time, where to the left if the stairs i have about 50 4 o’clocks planted and was bombarded by about 8-10 of these hummingbird looking things that had a rear that looked like a bumble bee! I was so awe struck i forgot to get my camera! I hope to see them again soon.

2 Melody { 07.14.19 at 10:40 am }

Fredericksburg VA: viewing model homes with Lantana all over the gardens and we were just talking about a butterfly bush and missing the hummingbirds and spotted the moth. So entertaining. I have a video of it.

3 Kristen { 07.13.19 at 4:25 pm }

This was in SLC, Utah

4 Kristen { 07.13.19 at 4:23 pm }

I purchased some purple petunias from the local market as they were on clearance due to the late timing for planting. I already have more than enough flowers but not enough purple. I brought them from the truck to the porch and went to get the remaining items but when I returned to the porch there was a new “freind” retrieving nectar from the flowers. It looked like a cross between a moth, a butterfly (because of the color and patterns), and a very large bee. It was very late in the day so no other insects that collect nectar were still around. I have humming bird feeders so I knew it wasn’t that, but so beautiful and interesting to watch. Now that I’ve read your article I know to return around dusk and hope for a reunion!

5 Stacietobrien { 07.11.19 at 9:53 pm }

I just had 3 Hummingbird Moths in my front by the pansy and mandavillas! They were almost tame. One even flew up to me as I was taking pictures and tasted the palm of my hand. Another ldid the same to the front of my daughters shirt. They are beautiful. I wish I could post the pics.❤️

6 Marjorie { 07.11.19 at 1:42 am }

Seen hummingbird moth in Atlantic iowa

7 Missi { 07.09.19 at 8:24 pm }

My kids and I just spotted this in our garden and had to look up what it is! I got some great pictures and video!

8 Chuck Blankenship { 07.09.19 at 1:13 am }

My son and I spotted our first hummingbird moth at about 8PM in Juneau, Alaska. (July 8,2019 – Full daylight as sun doesn’t set until after 10PM). It was feeding on fireweed blossoms along the roadside just south of town. I had no idea they were found in Alaska as it was the first I’ve heard of here in 60+ years!

9 William F DuBoyce { 07.07.19 at 7:36 pm }

Was in flower garden today in Maryland and saw a humming bird. Then saw some bumblebees. Then i saw a creature moving around like a hummingbird that looke more like the bumblebees. Later i found that it was hummingbird hawk-moth. bery cool.

10 Michelle Kemp { 07.06.19 at 10:07 am }

Just saw my first hummingbird moth yesterday gathering nectar….I love nature!

11 Lesley Paterson { 07.05.19 at 4:47 pm }

05/07/19 I live in a housing estate in central Scotland. On looking out of my window this evening at 9.30pm I had to look twice as I was sure it was a hummingbird until I saw no beak (also bearing in mind where I live, HIGHLY unlikely.) I had to Google “fast flying moth,” which brought up this article. I feel blessed to have seen one and I’m now going to plant all the flowers this wee moth likes. It was flying round in a frenzy in this flower I have in the garden which is self seeding and is a beautiful purple colour but I’m afraid I don’t know what it is as I’ve had it for years. Many thanks for the article!

12 Linda { 07.04.19 at 7:52 pm }

On July 2, 2019 I went out at dusk to walk my dog. I thought I saw a hummingbird in my petunias which I thought odd. When I walked over to look, it did not fly off. It let me get right up to it. I could see it was not a hummingbird. It looked like a moth and a hummingbird. SO I googled “hummingbird moth” even though I had not ever heard of one. To my surprise I got all kinds of information and pictures. I loved it. It seems so special that I got to see it.

13 Ginny B { 07.04.19 at 6:54 am }

Just saw my first hummingbird moth around dusk in my ‘Million Bells’ (Calibrachoa), location Lavallette, NJ…Like others, didn’t know what I was looking at & had to research. Got a great video!

14 Heather Donald { 07.03.19 at 4:52 am }

Wow. Just seen my first hummingbird moth. Amazing. By time realized what it was too late for pic. Have set up garden cam incase it comes back. A-MAZ-ING

15 Judy Moore { 07.01.19 at 10:15 pm }

Judy Moore
I’m in Central Illinois USA

16 Judy Moore { 07.01.19 at 10:11 pm }

Judy
I just saw my first hummingbird moth yesterday and today
Love it
We have hummingbirds so I did a double take when I saw the moth
Had to research it
Cool

17 J Thomas { 07.01.19 at 10:15 am }

Just seen my first hummingbird moth, beautiful and fascinating in Ruabon, North Wales, UK. 01/07/2019

18 Suzanne Longhurst { 06.30.19 at 4:32 am }

I live in France and we have many of the humming bird moths. In my garden I have pink evening primrose plants and the moths visit these however, they always seem to get their proboscis trapped in the flower and just hang there. I have to give the plant a sharp tap to release them. Are they dead or drunk and why? This morning I had two moths obviously dead. I mention the plants are pink because this does not happen on the yellow evening primrose.

19 Sandra Hughes { 06.29.19 at 12:28 pm }

We have just seen a Hummingbird Moth whilst sat in our garden on Saturday 29.06.19 at 17.20. What an amazing creature, We have been lucky enough to see a hummingbird and at first we thought that’s what we were looking at. Amazing. So glad my husband was with me. He would never have believed me!

20 caroline hamilton { 06.27.19 at 7:46 pm }

We have butterfly bushes in front of our house and they are loaded with Hummingbird moths. They are so cute to watch. We live in Lexington Park, Maryland.

21 Ruth { 06.21.19 at 3:21 am }

Saw a hummingbird hawk moth in my garden. West Bromwich

22 Samantha E { 06.21.19 at 12:53 am }

I saw my first one this evening in Roseville, CA while enjoying the cool evening with my daughter. A creature flew by us and it moved like a hummingbird and landed on the neighbor’s ground cover flowers. My first thought was “moth” because it was comfortable with my 3 year old daughter (think fidgety) and I approaching it. As I studied it, I got confused and was like “wait…did I just discover a new type of hummingbird!??” LOL. I took some video with my camera and did the research and learned about this wonderful creature that I had never heard of before! The White-lined Sphinx Hyles Lineata. What a joy.

(And ditto to LXXXI 9/12/18- I also immediately thought “fairy” for some reason – right before my un-magical mind thought “no…moth”)

23 Robert Drover { 06.20.19 at 11:07 pm }

Tonight I saw a hummingbird moth for the first time ever. It was flying all over my lilac bush on the flowers. I had no idea what I was looking at. At first it looked like a big bee but on closer examination it looked a lot more like a hummingbird. After it flew away, I looked it up and found what it was. Never saw one before in northern Alberta Canada. Very nice first sighting.

24 Than Htwe { 06.17.19 at 8:37 am }

Yes, I’d seen one.

25 Donna { 06.16.19 at 7:21 am }

I took a video yesterday as I thought it was a baby hummingbird…it was beautiful ! All black with two yellow lines on the back end.

26 Karin Bittner { 06.14.19 at 5:15 pm }

I just bought some flowers for my front porch and was looking at them. This little thing I first thought was a bee but then realized it resembled a hummingbird. I took pics and video of this little beauty that did not seem to be afraid. It was my first time to see one in my 62 years and what a delight in Memphis!

27 Steve { 06.07.19 at 9:21 pm }

They have been active in our multicolored Columbine patch around 8 – 8:30 PM MST.

28 Mr Brian P Jones { 06.05.19 at 6:02 am }

I saw my first Hawkmoth today in my back garden, Bournville, Birmingham, England, an amazing creature, never thought I would see such a beautiful insect and did a double take as it flitted from flower to flower.

29 carolyn d balch { 06.05.19 at 5:49 am }

I just seen one on my bathroom window at first I thought it was a moth but then it kept hovering and then it just took off beautiful!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

30 Nikki Broderick { 06.04.19 at 6:18 pm }

I saw one of these for the first time today. A thunder storm had just rolled through and this adorable little critter was flitting in and out of our lilacs.

31 Barbara { 05.27.19 at 2:50 pm }

They can be a fun project to raise from worm to moth. You can look at the pupae and see if it is male or female by the bumps on the bottom. Very cool!

32 Paul { 05.20.19 at 10:36 pm }

Can you transplant the tomato worm?

33 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.

34 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.

35 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.

36 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!

37 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.

38 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 .

39 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.

40 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.

41 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.

42 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.

43 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.

44 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!!!”

45 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.

46 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!

47 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!

48 Susan Higgins { 11.12.18 at 9:02 am }

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

49 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?

50 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

51 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.

52 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.

53 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

54 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.

55 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.

56 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.

57 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.

58 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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