Nature Detective: Hummingbird or Moth?

Hummingbird Moth - Adirondack Family Time (dot) com
Hummingbird Moth on Milkweed
Is it a bird or is it a butterfly?

A hummingbird moth can be found around your Adirondack garden throughout the summer months. Some shared characteristics between the two similarly named creatures make people mistakenly identify this moth for the more popular hummingbird.

1) Stating the obvious here, but one is a moth and one is a bird.
2) A hummingbird moth's tail is shaped like a fan
3) The moth has a long tongue that rolls up under its chin called a proboscis
4) A hummingbird moth is classified as a Lepidoptera
5) Hummingbird moths have antennae

Similarities between hummingbird and hummingbird moth
1) Both can remain suspended in the air as well as flying sideways and backwards
2) Both feed off of nectar 
3) Both emit a similar humming sound 

Hummingbird moth
1) In the United Kingdom, hummingbird moths are referred to as Bee Hawk moth
2) Part of the Sphingidae family, one of the fastest flying insects in the world. A hummingbird moth can fly up to 12 MPH
3) The adults feed on nectar using their proboscis, but the larvae feed on specific plants: such as  honeysuckle, dogbane, and some members of the rose family such as hawthorn, cherries, and plums.

There are four species of hummingbird moths in North America. 
The most familiar ones are the Snowberry Clearwing (Hemaris diffinis) and most likely to be found in the west while the Hummingbird Clearwing (Hemaris thysbe) is most likely to be found in the east.
By A. M. Liosi - Own work, CC BY-SA 2.5

The hummingbird moth eggs are green and usually found on the underside of the host plant. The green caterpillars have a horn at the end and can be confused with the destructive tomato and tobacco horn caterpillars.  

When they are fully-grown they drop to the ground, spin a cocoon and pupate, partially protected by leaf litter. 

© Diane Chase is the author of the Adirondack Family Time™ guidebook series. Adirondack Family Time™guidebooks have easy, short Adirondack family hikes for ADK kids, parents, retired, seniors, dog-owners, Adirondack swimming holes, Lake Placid Olympic activities, Adirondack trivia, Adirondack horseback rides, Adirondack snowshoe family trails and more. Look for the Adirondack family guidebooks online or bookstores/museums/sporting good stores. Diane is currently working on the next Adirondack Family Activities™ guide.


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