November 2017 Biodiversity Spotlight

Hummingbird Clearwing Hemaris thysbe

Images courtesy of Cathy Bester

The Hummingbird Clearwing (Hemaris thysbe) is a type of moth in the family Sphingidae. It is often mistaken for a hummingbird or a bee because it forages during the day, is a fast flier, and visits many of the same flowers that hummingbirds do. One hypothesis to explain why a moth would mimic the appearance and behavior of a hummingbird is protection against predators. A diurnal mouth would be easy pickings for insectivorous birds. Disguising itself as something other than a moth – a bird – would likely throw off many avian predators.

The Hummingbird Clearwing can be distinguished from similar species by the lack of banding on the side of the thorax and yellowish or pale legs. Hummingbird Clearwing caterpillars rely on honeysuckle, hawthorns, cherries, and other plant species as their host plants. Adults eat nectar from a wide variety of flowers including red clover, lilac, and blueberry. The individual pictured above is visiting a Plumbago. The Hummingbird Clearwing occurs in open areas, second-growth habitats, gardens, and suburbs.


Find Hummingbird Clearwing specimens in the iDigBio Portal or in LepNet.

Sources: Animal Diversity Web and Butterflies and Moths of North America