Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Hummingbird Clearwing Moth (Hemaris thysbe)

A couple of weeks ago, W went to the local EMC to pay the electric bill. Outside the office there are several flowerbeds with lantana bushes. One particular variety, with pink and cream flowerlets, was alive with butterflies: Eastern Tiger Swallowtails (cream and black), Common Buckeyes, Fiery Skippers, a few Sleepy Oranges and the odd Cloudless Sulphur, Painted Lady, Pipevine Swallowtail, and Gulf Fritillary. They were all doing their butterfly thing.

Then something else appeared. It had an olive green upper back and hovered like a hummingbird. W figured it was a moth and spent about an hour trying to photograph it. It would hover for a few seconds feeding at one flower head and, just as he managed to focus, it would fly onto the next flower head, and so on... We reviewed the photographs and Googled ‘hummingbird moth’ and there it was – a Hummingbird Clearwing Moth (Hemaris thysbe). Wish all identifications were so easy.

I had to try and get photographs even if it was 90+ degrees. We went down to the EMC one evening. At first there was no sign of it and suddenly, out of nowhere, it appeared. It consistently worked the lantana bushes in a counterclockwise direction. After it circumnavigated one bush it would fly off to the other bush just across the path and then back to the first bush. This made stalking it a little easier. But focusing on this dervish was almost impossible; it just didn’t stay still.
And here are the photos…

It also ‘clicked’ that this was probably what had buzzed me last year. Late one afternoon, I was crouched down by the butterfly bush in the late afternoon photographing a spider. I was wearing a yellow baseball cap. Something flew up to me hovered just above my head; it gave me a start. I just had time to glance up and see something that looked like it had olive green ‘feathers.’ It was hovering – its rapidly beatings wings making an audible sound - like a very small hummingbird. Before I could really get a good look at it, it flew off. I assumed it was a small hummingbird. Now I realize it was a hummingbird moth.
Click on an image to view a larger image

Identification resources:

BugGuide: Hummingbird Clearwing Moth (Hemaris thysbe)

- Dorsal view

Lateral view
Seabrooke Leckle,
The Marvelous in Nature: Moths and ants

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