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Posts Tagged ‘Hemaris diffinis’

I was thrilled yesterday to spot this Snowberry Clearwing Moth (Hemaris diffinis) as I was wandering about in Occoquan Regional Park. This fascinating insect looks a lot like a bumblebee, but acts a lot like a hummingbird and hovers when it is feeding. Unlike a hummingbird that has a long pointed beak, members of this species have a long proboscis that they curl up when it is not in use, as you can see in the first photo.

The active little moth was very focused on the tiny violets and did not seem bothered by my presence, so I was able to move in quite close for these shots. However, the moth did not linger long on any flower, so I had to move quickly. I do not know how fast the moth was moving its wings, but the shutter speed for these photos was as high as 1/2000 of a second and there was still some wing blur. In case you are curious, Snowberry Clearwing Moths are about 1.25-2.0 inches (32–51 mm) in length.

 

Snowberry Clearwing Moth

Snowberry Clearwing Moth

Snowberry Clearwing Moth

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Having recently photographic some hummingbirds in flight, I couldn’t help but think of them when I first spotted several Snowberry Clearwing Moths (Hemaris diffinis) last week at Occoquan Regional Park. The fight characteristics are quite similar as they hover in mid-air and extract nectar from flowers. Unlike hummingbirds that have a skinny bill and a tongue, clearwing moths use a long proboscis to reach into the flowers.

In our area we have two similar species of clearwing moths, the Snowberry Clearwing and the Hummingbird Clearwing (Hermaris thysbe). They are similar in appearance and behavior, but generally the Hummingbird Clearwing Moth is redder in appearance, so I believe these are all Snowberrys.

The clearwing moths seem to be very attracted to several small patches of swamp milkweed. Other insects had a similar attraction and if you look in the center of the milkweed in the second photo, you will note an orange insect that I can’t see well enough to identify.

 

Snowberry Clearwing Moth

Snowberry Clearwing Moth

Snowberry Clearwing Moth

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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When I first spotted this insect last Thursday at Occoquan Regional Park, it looked like a large bumblebee. I tracked it visually as it buzzed about and when it landed, I could see from its distinctive wings that it was definitely not a bee. In our area we have two species of clear wing moths that are similar in appearance and behavior, the Snowberry Clearwing Moth (Hemaris diffinis) and the Hummingbird Clearwing Moth (Hemaris thysbe). Identification guides warn that both species are variable in color, which complicates identification, but the Hummingbird Clearwing Moth has light-colored legs, so I am pretty confident that this one is a Snowberry Clearwing Moth.

Most of the time when I see clearwing moths they are beating their wings rapidly and hovering in the air as they collect nectar from a variety of flowers, which causes some people to think they are hummingbirds. I do not know why this one was perched in the low vegetation—perhaps it was taking a break—but its static position allowed me to get a detailed look at its wings and the rest of its body.

Snowberry Clearwing moth

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Many of my photographer friends have been posting photos of hummingbirds and I felt a little left out. I didn’t see any yesterday, but did spot several Snowberry Clearwing moths (Hemaris diffinis) at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. This species, along with other clearwing moths, is sometimes called a “hummingbird moth” because of its appearance and behavior, which reminds some folks of a hummingbird.

Most of the times in the past that I have seen a hummingbird clearwing moth, it has been a “cousin” of this species, the very similar Hemaris thysbe. That species, however, has more red on its body and has lighter colored legs, according to the butterfliesandmoths.org website.

As you might suspect, these moths are in almost constant motion.  Its is quite a challenge, therefore, to track them and keep them in focus as they dart among the flowering plants.

As I was tracking one, a second one flew in and seemed intent on dislodging the first one. I reflexively I pressed the shutter button and was a little shocked to see that I managed to capture them both in a single frame. It’s cool that they both had their long proboscises curled up at the moment I took the shot.

Snowberry Clearwing Moth

Snowberry Clearwing moth

Snowberry Clearwing moth

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As I was searching for dragonflies yesterday at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, I noticed an unusually large bumblebee and started to give chase. When it landed and I moved in close, it became clear that it was not a bumblebee after all—it was a clearwing moth.

I have seen clearwing moths in the past of the the variety commonly known as Hummingbird Clearwing Moths (Hermaris thysbe), but they have generally been hovering like a hummingbird rather than perching like this one and their wings were outlined in red, not black. It took only a few minutes of internet research to discover that this is a Snowberry Clearwing Moth (Hemaris diffinis).

 

Snowberry Clearwing moth

Snowberry Clearwing moth

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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