Many people mistakenly think the Hummingbird Moth (Hemaris thysbe) is actually a tiny hummingbird. It is easy to understand why. These moths feed on many of the same flowers (they love lilacs and roses) and are extremely fast. Their clear wings typically create a blur of activity as this moth darts from flower to flower.
Those aren't feathers!
The body of the hummingbird clearwing moth is covered with hair. In the one above, the hairs look similar to a bubble bee with both yellow-orange and black. Some hummingbird moths have bands of colors, but the clearwing moth in Maine is commonly yellow and black. Although you typically cannot see the markings on the wings, you can see in the photo above that they are edged in golden or rusty browns to nearly black. They create the illusion of beautiful stained glass. Tufts of hairs at the end of the clearwing hummingbird moth's body resemble the tail feathers of a hummingbird.
What is that coiled tube, anyway?
The proboscis is the coiled feeding tube that the moth (or other insects) uses to drink the nectar from the flowers. Many people do not realize that the proboscis also contains the trachea so the moth can breathe. If you look closely in the photo of the hummingbird moth sipping nectar from the lilac, you can see his proboscis entering the center of the lilac flower. The moth straightens the proboscis when he eats, but it remains in a coil when he is not feeding.
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Until Next Time . . . HAPPY GARDENING!
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