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Posts Tagged ‘hummingbird moth’

Hummingbird Clearwing Moths (Hemaris thysbe) act a lot like hummingbirds. With rapidly beating wings, they both hover and fly from flower to flower seeking nectar. Instead of a beak like a hummingbird, however, a Hummingbird Clearwing Moth has a long proboscis that rolls out of its coiled tube to reach the nectar deep inside flowers.

Normally when I get shots of a hummingbird moth, its proboscis is fully extended and the moth is sucking up nectar through this flexible hollow tube. On Monday, I was delighted to capture this first image in which the moth’s proboscis was still curled up as it approached a thistle in bloom. The second image shows the Hummingbird Moth actively feeding through the proboscis.

From the first moment when I encountered one, I have been fascinated by these curious creatures. They seem almost magical, combining characteristics of different species, or perhaps mythical, like a centaur or a sphinx. It is always fun to observes a Hummingbird Moth in action, but you have to react quickly to get shots when you see them, because they are really fast and in constant motion.

Hummingbird Clearwing Moth

Hummingbird Clearwing Moth

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As I approached a patch of thistle in bloom on Tuesday, I was looking carefully to see if there were any butterflies feeding on the flowers. Suddenly I noticed a flash of bright red and realized immediately that it was a Hummingbird Clearwing Moth (Hemaris thysbe).

Hummingbird Clearwing moths, which actually do resemble hummingbirds as they dart among the flowers, hovering periodically to such nectar, are not exactly rare where I live, but I tend to see them only a few times a year. Fortunately I reacted quickly enough to capture this image, because the moth flew out of sight after it had finished feeding on this flower.

For shots like this, the wing position is really important and I was thrilled that I was able to capture the wings fully extended, which highlights the transparent portions of the wing responsible the common name of this species. The details of the moth and the thistle are pretty sharp and the background is blurred enough that it is not a distraction—I like this shot a lot.

Hummingbird Clearwing Moth

© 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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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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Whenever I see bees buzzing around flowers, I keep an eye out for hummingbird moths. For some unknown reason, I have seen more of these colorful moths this summer than in past years.

Although you could argue about whether or not thistles are flowers, my vigilance was rewarded when I spotted this beautiful Hummingbird Clearwing Moth (Hemaris thysbe) feeding on this thistle bloom on Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

Hummingbird Clearwing Moth

Hummingbird Clearwing Moth

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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