Friday, July 31, 2009

Hummingbird Clearwing Moth (Hemaris thysbe) and Snowberry Clearwing Hummingbird Moth (Hemaris diffinis)

Birding Hocking Hills in Southeastern Ohio
I remember the first time I ever saw a Hummingbird Clearwing Moth. It was 19 years ago in the backyard of our first house. I was standing by a patch of Black-eyed Susans when he flew up to a blossom. “Ohhhh, a hummingbird!” I thought. Until I looked closer and realized it was most definitely not a hummingbird. I remember it frightened me in a “something’s gone awry in nature” way because it looked like neither a bird nor an insect, and to top it off, it had fur (or at least is looked like it did)! I watched him for a while as he quickly went from flower to flower, until it suddenly dawned on me that he might be a bee and have a really big stinger, so I high-tailed it out of there and called mom. I can’t remember if she knew what he was or not, but I do remember a few days later I read an article in the paper about Hummingbird Moths and have thought they were really cool ever since.

I found this furry-looking Hummingbird Clearwing 
Moth (Hemaris thysbe) at the Clear Creak Metro Park 
on the Creekside Meadow trail.

Hummingbird Clearwing Moths are
often called “Common Clearwings.”
I love his little curled-up proboscis.

In my new National Audubon Society “Field Guide
to Insects and Spiders,” I read that the wings are
“plum-red” to “brownish black” at first, but the scales
drop off after the first flight leaving the clear areas.

Hummingbird Clearwing Moths can be found
around forest edges, meadows, and cultivated
flower gardens. They like nectaring on
Phlox and Bee Balm.

Check out this fellow. He’s smaller than a Common Clearwing and is called a Snowberry Clearwing Hummingbird Moth.

Nectaring on Bee Balm, I found this Snowberry 
Clearwing Hummingbird Moth (Hemaris diffinis) 
at the meadow's edge on the Prairie Warbler trail.

With such an interesting little 
masked face, he's hard to resist.

35 comments:

Nature As Is said...

OHHHH Wow...very awesome shots Kelly I have never seen one of these and I'm in the forests all the time...tooo cool ;)

Oh yes I think a dead tree Society is a fabulous idea do you know why...because in Victoria we keep dead trees up in our Nature parks up and available for all birds...woodpeckers, small burrowing birds, Nuthatches...so I agree that dead trees are a great food resorce for little birds. So count me in :)

Kelly said...

Isn't he a cool little moth? I looked on the range map. It looks like the Common Clearwing doesn't make it out that far, but the Snowberry Clearwing might.

We should think about the dead tree thing. I love seeing dead trees in the woods...they make such interesting photos. Maybe the last day of August we should try it!

Weedpicker Cheryl said...

Nice shots! Those guys are fast ones, for sure!

Roy said...

Wow! Great shots! I've heard about these but I've never seen any, although the Audubon field guide says they're native to these parts. Hmmm... I'll have to keep an eye out.

Kelly said...

Cheryl...thanks! They were zipping all over the place. I had fun chasing them down.

Roy...Thanks...they are a little fuzzy, but he's just so darn fast! look for Bee Balm...and Wild Blue Phlox...Black-eyed Susan and thistle. I've seen them around those plants a lot.

Elaine said...

Nice photos, Kelly! I got some photos of the Common Clearwing in early June here, but haven't seen any since then. I didn't know what they were, but thanks to my fellow bloggers was able to get an ID on him. It appears they have a pretty large range. Quite an interesting little fellow. Like you, I was afraid of getting stung until I learned they were a moth.

The Early Birder said...

I remember being entranced by Hummingbird Hawk Moths feeding on our lilies a year ago but nothing so far this year so I'll enjoy watching yours instead. FAB

P.S. I'll give the 'dead tree' idea some thought, that is if I can find some that haven't already been cut down!

Sue said...

What a great memory this brought back of the first time I saw one.
They do make you wonder what went wrong in nature! They sure are neat though. I rarely see one. I can't even imagine how you can get a picture of one! Super job, Kelly!

Chris Petrak said...

Cool creatures - and thanks for the info about goldfinches & cowbirds - as something to learn!

Busy Bee Suz said...

How cute. I have seen little guys similar to this and I could not figure out if they were moths or hummingbirds!!! Thanks for posting this today. :)

Adrienne in Ohio said...

Kelly, your photography continutes to amaze me. These are wonderful shots! I've never seen the smaller Snowberry one before. I do remember the first time I saw the larger one though. My mom and I were out by the pool and one flew in to nectar on her hosta blooms. "Did you see that bug that flies like a hummingbird?!!" she said as it buzzed by her. It was funny, but we didn't find out it was a moth until some time later.

Roy said...

Fantastic images Kelly. Very difficult to achieve.

Jayne said...

They really are so interesting, aren't they? Wonderful photos of them Kelly!

Kelly said...

Elaine....isn't it funny. If it's big and buzzes...you never know! :-) I love these faux hummingbirds. They are gorgeous and fun to watch.

Frank...I hope a get to see a few more this season. They really are unique. I'm going to keep my eye out for dead trees in the wild and see what I can do. I'm shooting for the last day of August. I just hope I can remember!

Sue....I had to laugh.....I bet a lot of us have memories of our first encounters with these cuties. As for the photos....i have about 60 that are nothing but blurs!! I've seen better photos of these guys, but that's okay. I loved every second I spend photographing them. I was with them for a long time.

Chris....thank you. They are cool...such a combination of characteristics!

Suz...thank you!

Adrienne...thank you very much. (You should see all the bad shots!!) It's so cool how this little guy is so unique you remember you first encounter...like it was burned in your brain!

Roy...thank you! I know I did hold my breath a lot until I had to step back and breath deeply for a while! I was hand-holding the 200mm with the 2x TC, and it seems when I hold my breath I'm a touch more still.

Jayne....soooo interesting. Thank you!

Betsy from Tennessee said...

Beautiful pictures, Kelly... I've never seen nor heard of such a thing. SO interesting.

We're headed to Florida. Be home about the 9th... Have a great week.
Hugs,
Betsy

JKoenig said...

Kelly, you have had so many wonderful posts lately, I can't keep up with you. I always learn something from you.

I have never seen the clearwing moths, but now know more what to look for. I loved your post about the goldfinch and the thistle also, and the remarkable perfect timing of the silks and seeds becoming available for the use of the goldfinch just when they need it....blessings from their Creator.

Oh, by the way, I also have some dead trees/branches. I need to remember to look up more to see what might be sitting on them.

Have a beautiful day....

Chad said...

Very awesome pictures. I love these Moths... so many people have never seen these. My aunt called me a couple of weeks ago so excited that she saw one.

Heather said...

These images are so sharp and clear - really fantastic. Interestingly enough, I just photographed one of these guys myself this afternoon! Sure enough, it was enjoying some Bee Balm along the roadside.
By the way, I finally heard back from the naturalist at Hocking Hills, and he confirmed that the Hermit Thrushes are nesting there, and said they do so every year.

ShySongbird said...

What a fascinating and lovely creature it is Kelly and you have captured it beautifully, we have the similar Humming Bird Hawk Moth (Macroglossum stellatarum) which I have only seen once but what a sighting it was! I was entranced to see it glide into the garden and examine all the flowers and although it was some years ago I have never forgotten it.
I also loved your sketch on the previous post, I am so envious, I really,really wish I could do that!

The Watcher said...

Very interesting blog.

Montanagirl said...

Wonderful! Your post reminded me of some photos of a "clearwing" I took last summer. I'll post some tomorrow.

Steve Willson said...

Kelly, Thanks for visiting my Blue Jay Barrens blog. I love to watch Hummingbird Clearwings, but I've never seen the Snowberry. It'll make Clearwing watching more interesting now that I know there's another species I might observe.

holdingmoments said...

What a beauty. That 4th one down is a stunner Kelly. Great captures.

Linda McGeary said...

Wow! You just get better and better.
Doing what you love brings out your best.
Those pictures are pure magic!

Years ago we were camping in the Steins Mts. in early September and just at dusk, we saw a swarm of something that moved like hummingbirds, sounded like hummingbirds, the size of hummingbirds, but in the dying light we could puzzle out giant moth bodies. We were mystified as to what they were.

Could they have been Clearwings? That's Eastern Oregon. I'd never seen such beautiful little creatures until your pictures.

Gabrielle said...

LOVE these guys! Great photos. It is always a treat to see them. They look so much like hummingbirds, but don't you think they look a little like flying shrimp, too?

Kelly said...

Betsy...you might now. That always seems the way. Once you hear about something, you start seeing it!

Janice...thank you so much. I think I learn something with each post too! That's why I started blogging...to learn and to teach. I hope you see a common clearwing soon. Head out to a meadow or any field with wildflowers. I saw one at the local nursery in the Bee Balm section (I brought 4 plants home with me!). You'll have to take some photos of those dead branches so we can see what's perched there! :-)

Chad...I love them too. I bet everyone remembers the first time they saw one because they are just so unique!

Heather....cool...I'll have to check out your photos. That's awesome that the naturalist got back to you and confirmed what we suspected. Truly, the hemlock gorges at Hocking Hills are a treasure. I want to go back. You're so lucky you live there!!!

Songbird....so many people have written that they remember their first sighting of the clearwing as well. Such a lovely little bug! Thanks you. I'm going to try to do a piece of artwork a week. I hope I can do it!

Watcher...thanks for dropping by. I checked out your blog. It's very interesting too!

Mona...I'll be watching for your Clearwings!! Thanks!!

Steve...thanks for stopping by! My first time to see a Snowberry was this trip to Clear Creek Metro Parks. I'm going to start watching for them down here in Cincy too!

Keith....thank you very much!!

Linda....it probably was. It could also have been the Snowberry Clearwing. I think they have a greater population in the west than the common clearwings. They both look the same in flight. They are just so cool!!! I would have loved to have seen a swarm. I just saw mine one at a time! Thank you so much for your kind comments...

Gabrielle...haha...flying shrimp. I think you're right! Now that would make a cute children's book!

NW Nature Nut said...

How exciting...I have only seen one once, years ago. I wish I could attract them to my garden! What a treat.

Kelly said...

Nature.....I just planted Bee Balm, zinnias, and others. I'm hoping they help attract them. thanks!

Rick said...

Kelly,
These are cool little creatures. I'll never forget my first encounter. If you would like to know a place to shoot them locally, I know a good place.

Kelly said...

Rick....definitely! Let me know!

Texas Travelers said...

Great shots. Those little rascal are hard to focus on.

Troy

Kim Bennett said...

Thanks for bring back the memory f when I first saw one. They are so fascinating different. Just sublime.

LadyDi007 said...

My husband took a picture of one of these snowberry moths on his cell phone and I was researching trying to find out what it was. Love the site. Our little moth looks just like the ones in your pictures. Never seen one before. Guess we have them now in Arkansas.

Louise James said...

I saw my first Hummingbird Moth a few years ago and took pictures of it with my phone I had heard of them so I knew what it was, my son thought it was a big bee

Louise James said...

I saw my first Hummingbird Moth a few years ago and took pictures of it with my phone I had heard of them so I knew what it was, my son thought it was a big bee