WiseAcre Gardens

north of the adirondacks – wildflowers & perennials that survive winters colder than my wife's feet

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Posted by WiseAcre on Aug 11th, 2009

Hummingbird Clearwing Moth

Aug 11
Is it a bird, a bee or super shrimp?

Some people think these moths look like baby hummingbirds, others believe they’ve spotted a mutant bee and some just don’t know what to think the first time they see one.

  Hummingbird moth

Hemaris thysbe

Hemaris thysbe

It’s easy to see how they picked up the hummingbird moniker. Darting about and hovering while feeding they do look like a hummer at first glance. Well at least for most people, my wife came yelling for me to see the mutant bumblebee the first time she saw one.

Hummingbird Clearwing Moth

Eggs are deposited on the undersides of leaves. Viburnum, hawthorn and wild cherry are plentiful around my house and are probably the main food source for the caterpillars here. The green caterpillars (hornworms) have horns on their rear ends – someday I’ll get a photo. The larvae pupate under leaf litter in cocoons. Hummingbird moths have a real liking for garden phlox and I make sure my gardens have plenty of it to attract them.

Hummingbird moth

Getting a sharp photo of these moths is hard at best. They’re not shy but they dart about so quickly there’s no time to focus the camera. Before you can press the shutter button they’ve moved on to the next flower. Out of hundreds of attempts these are the best I could manage. I’m going to have to set up the tripod and pre-focus on a flower and hope the little bugger stops there.

Hummingbird Clearwing Moth

Lobster Bee is my pet name for these moths. I didn’t come up with the name – my wife did after getting a closer look at one.

Hemaris thysbe

I won’t argue with her but I think they look more like flying shrimp.

65 Responses

  1. Mark van Allen Says:

    We used to see these in MI on lilac bushes in the 70’s (with yellow and black stripes like a bee)… an entomologist told me they were “skippers”… just saw one today on our butterfly bush on our farm in GA. Not such defined stripes but still an amazing little creature. Glad to find out what they really are!

  2. Georgia Douglas Says:

    Looking for the identity of the Clearwing Moth I found on my Garden Phlox. Love, love your website!!!

  3. deborah morris Says:

    I saw these for the last three days on my purple and white butterfly bushes. I at first thought that they were a small hummingbird. Then maybe a queen carpenter bee. These are very black and yellow.

  4. Lisa K Says:

    I never saw one of these things till today and it has since returned many times to the butterfly bush. I thought at first it was my hummingbird friend but it wasn’t. I had to google it and voila here it is. It this interesting creature has returned many times and I got a decent video of it. Pretty cool. Ranks up there with platypus – half shrimp- half hummingbird – all moth.

  5. Will Says:

    Columbus OH- saw one today 1st time ever.. Been in OH 25 years…flying shrimp is correct:)
    Amazingly flight patter same as hummers- loves my butterfly bush- cheers