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Posts Tagged ‘Hemaris thysbe’

The thistle flowers at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge again turned out to be irresistible to insects. Previously I photographed several butterfly species gathering nectar from the thistle—see my recent posting Butterflies and Thistle). This past Friday, a Hummingbird Clearwing Moth (Hemaris thysbe) flew by me as I was approaching a thistle patch and I managed to snap off a few photos before it flew away.

I love how the first photo shows the transparency of the wings of this beautiful insect. My camera shutter speed for the shot was 1/2000 second, which was fast enough to freeze all of the wing motion as the moth hovered in the air. It is cool how clearly you can see the thistle through those clear wings.

The second image, which was actually taken before the first one, shows the moth as it was first approaching the thistle. I believe that it was just beginning to unfurl its long proboscis, which it extends to suck out the nectar and then curls up tightly when it is flying.

Hummingbird Clearwing Moth

Hummingbird Clearwing Moth

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I was absolutely delighted to spot some clearwing moths among the flowers on Thursday at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge. These cool moths look and act a lot like  hummingbirds as they hover among the flowers and sip nectar. Unlike the hummingbirds that use a needlelike beaks, these moths have a long proboscises that look like tongues but function more like straws that permit them to suck in nectar from a distance, as you can see in the second image.

There are several related species of clearwing moths in our area and I sometimes have trouble telling them apart. I am pretty sure that the one in the first image is a Snowberry Clearwing moth (Hemaris diffinis) because of its yellow coloration and dark-colored legs. The moth in the second image might be a Hummingbird Clearwing moth (Hemaris thysbe), judging from its more olive coloration and light-colored legs.

These moths are in constant motion, moving quickly from flower and flower and I had to chase them around quite a bit to capture these shots. Occasionally I was able to almost freeze the motion, as in the first image, but in most of my images the wings are somewhat blurry. I really like the blurry bright red wings in the second image in which we are looking head-on at the moth. The blurred wings provide a nice contrast with the rest of the body that is in relative sharp focus and we get a good look at the proboscis in action.

Snowberry Clearwing

Hummingbird Clearwing

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I love to photograph birds and I love to photograph insects, so what could possibly be better than photographing an insect that looks and acts like a bird? Last week I was observing a patch of flowers at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge when I spotted what looked like a large bee. As I got closer, I realized that it was a Hummingbird Clearwing Moth (Hemaris thysbe).

Like a hummingbird, this insect hovers as it gathers nectar from flowers. Instead of a long skinny beak, though, the Hummingbird Clearwing Moth uses its long proboscis to get to the nectar. As the second photo shows, the moth curls up its proboscis when it is not in use—in this case, the moth was preparing to fly off to another flower.

Hummingbird Clearwing Moth

Hummingbird Clearwing Moth

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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In the insect world, Red-footed Cannibalflies (Promachus rufipes) are fearsome predators. Yesterday I spotted one at Huntley Meadows Park in Alexandria, Virginia that appeared to be subduing a Hummingbird Clearwing Moth (Hemaris thysbe) that it had just captured.

What happens next? Wikipedia describes the tactics of a robber fly, the family to which the Red-footed Cannibalfly belongs, in these words:  “The fly attacks its prey by stabbing it with its short, strong proboscis  injecting the victim with saliva containing neurotoxic and proteolytic enzymes which very rapidly paralyze the victim and soon digest the insides; the fly then sucks the liquefied material through the proboscis.”

Yikes!

red-footed cannibalfly subdues hummingbird moth

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Yesterday as I was exploring at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge I came across one of my favorite insects, a Hummingbird Clearwing Moth (Hemaris thysbe). These spectacular insects act like a cross between a bee and a hummingbird, although they look more like a flying crayfish. They move really quickly, so I was thrilled to capture this image that gives a clear view of the moth’s transparent wings.

Hummingbird Clearwing Moth

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

 

 

 

 

 

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Earlier this week I caught a glimpse of my favorite moth, the spectacular Hummingbird Clearwing moth (Hemaris thysbe). Normally these little beauties hover at high speeds as they collect nectar, but this one kept perching on leafy plants, permitting me to capture its wings at rest. I wonder if the moth was laying eggs.

I am always fascinated by the names of species and found this interesting bit of information about this moth’s Latin name on the bugguide.net website. “Pyramus and Thisbe were lovers who died tragically. Pyramus found Thisbe’s blood-stained scarf, assumed she had been killed, and committed suicide with his sword. It seems likely the reference to the story of Thisbe is a reference to the rusty, somewhat blood-like coloration of this moth.”

Hummingbird Clearwing

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Is photography an art or a science? One of the reasons why I enjoy photography so much is that it engages me on both levels—it speaks to my inner artist and to my inner geek.

Growing up, I remember watching Olympic figure skating and I was struck by the fact that the skaters received two sets of scores, one for “artistic impression” and one for “technical merit.” In many ways, I use a similar internal scoring system for my photographs.

Some of my photographs rate high on one scale, but fall short on the other. Every now and then, though, one of my images stands out, with high marks all around, like this shot of a Hummingbird Clearwing Moth (Hemaris thysbe).

I posted an earlier photo of this remarkable insect and I thought it was really cool that I was able to get a close-up with the wings open and frozen in action, a somewhat impressive technical feat. This image, shot from a bit farther away, gives a better view of the moth in action and is a more interesting pose. The background, which I recall was evergreen bushes, is uncluttered. Even the flower cooperated by following the “odd rule” of composition, with three clusters of tiny flowers.

It’s hard to be objective when analyzing my own work, but I know that I like this image a lot.

clearwing2_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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