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It's a hummingbird, it's a moth, it's a what?

Jeffrey Hahn

hummingbird moth flying in front of a flower

Hummingbird moth
Photo credit: Rod Elmstrand

Some people have been puzzled lately by a hummingbird-like moth in flower gardens. They have been watching a hummingbird moth. This common moth has a 1 ½ to 2 1/4 inch wingspan. Sometimes called a hummingbird clearwing, this moth lacks scales on most of it wings except for a dark border around the edge of the wings. This moth hovers and darts about acrobatically in flower gardens, like a hummingbird. Instead of a long beak, a hummingbird moth has a long proboscis that it uses to feed on nectar while it is flying. Unlike most moths, a hummingbird moth flies during the day. There are two very closely related, very similar looking moths that are also found in Minnesota with the same behavior.

Another moth that may be seen hovering around flowers like a hummingbird is the whitelined sphinx moth. It is larger than a hummingbird moth with a wingspan between 2 and 3 ½ inches. It has scales entirely covering its wings. The first pair of wings are dark colored with a white stripe running from the wingtip diagonally to the base of the wing. The second pair of wings is dark with a pinkish band. The whitelined sphinx moth is active during the day as well as at dusk. Like a hummingbird moth, it uses a long proboscis to feed on nectar.

Published in Yard & Garden Line News, August 15, 2000

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