Sunday, August 7, 2011
Hummimgbird Clearwing Moth, Hemaris thysbe
Gotcha! It's a rare thing for me to get a nice picture of a hummingbird moth. They are too fast and I am too slow. They hover just like a hummingbird, fly just as fast and make the same if somewhat softer buzzing noise with their wings when they fly. It feeds by hovering like a humming bird and rolling out his proboscis like a butterfly. Notice the wire cage in the photograph. Those rectangles are 2" by 4". It's such a cute little guy and one of my favorite visitors to the garden. That's Buddleia in this picture, but phlox and bee balm are also favored nectar sources.
For once his soft furry brown and black body is in focus. Not so for his wings. They are mostly clear and moving so fast my camera doesn't catch those.
Although I have never seen one, the adult caterpillar for this moth is said to be 5 cm long, lime green with orange and white spots and a curved horn, often bluish. A younger smaller caterpillar is green with a white stripe and a much longer pointed straight reddish horn. Their preferred food plant is viburnum or honeysuckle. I would love to see a caterpillar, but apparently this requires a night expedition with a flashlight searching viburnums which here means in the woods. At least two generations of this moth occur each year, more in some places.
Ed believes that the thin shelled brown chrysalises that we often unearth in our spring garden clean up will become humming bird moths. The segmented tapered end moves wildly when disturbed and we are careful to replace them quickly when the weather is cool. We want all the hummingbird moths we can get.
It was on the summer sweet bush that I noticed a beautiful large black butterfly with blue and white spots. I didn't have the camera, so I watched for as long as I possible so that I could look for it in my butterfly book. It was definitely a female Diana, a butterfly whose northern range is usually Maryland. According to the book a male Diana is bright orange and black. Boy would I like to see him!