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When I was looking through my reference shots of hummingbird moths for my latest painting, I noticed that some of them looked quite different, more so than what would be expected with natural color differentiation.  Turns out I had taken pictures of three different species!  After researching them a bit, I thought you might be interested in what I found out.

Hummingbird moths belong to the family of Sphingidae or Sphinx moths.  They have stout bodies that taper to a point and long, narrow wings.  To me they resemble fighter jets with their wings swept back when at rest.

Hummingbird clearwing at rest © 2005 Karen A Johnson

Hummingbird clearwing at rest
© 2005 Karen A Johnson

They have a long proboscis that coils up when not in use and generally feed in flowers that have a narrow tube like the butterfly bush or honeysuckle.

Hummingbird clearwing © 2013 Karen A Johnson

Hummingbird clearwing
© 2013 Karen A Johnson

Most sphinx moths fly at dusk or night, but hummingbird moths fly during the day, hovering over flowers like their namesake.  Three species also have no scales on parts of their wings and are called clearwings as a result.

The three species that I have pictures of are the hummingbird clearwing (Hemaris thysbe), snowberry clearwing (Hemaris diffinis) and titan sphinx (Aellopos titan).  I had to wade through 100’s of shots to find decent ones to post as I don’t need perfect shots to draw from.  And I just can’t resist taking pictures of these guys!  The two Hemaris species are fairly common throughout America and frequently are flying at the same time.

Hemaris thysbeHummingbird clearwing-this moth has an olive body, pale legs and magenta to brown markings on its abdomen.

Hemaris diffinis-Snowberry clearwing-has black legs, a black stripe on its thorax and blackish markings on its abdomen.  It’s frequently mistaken for a bumble bee.

Aellopos titan-Titan sphinx-pure white band across the abdomen, wings not clear.  I’ve only seen this moth once and from what I read, they’re not very common.  Hopefully I’ve ID’ed it correctly…

The next time you’re out in the garden I hope you’ll keep an eye out for these beautiful moths!  Enjoy!

For additional information on butterflies and moths, check out www.butterfliesandmoths.org