Hummingbird moths are perhaps the most enchanting insect visitors to your garden. They behave just like hummingbirds, remaining suspended in the air while they insert their long proboscis into flowers to sip the nectar. Hummingbird moths even produce a distinct humming sound just like hummingbirds.
Unlike other moths, these delightful creatures can be seen throughout the day. They are widespread throughout most of North America, where four different species can be found. The most common species are the Snowberry Clearwing and the Hummingbird Clearwing. Hummingbird moths’ wings are covered in scales, allowing them to exude a beautiful array of colors from reds and browns to purples and blues. Some species lose their scales throughout the season – this is where the name ‘clearwing’ comes from.
After mating, the moths lay tiny, green eggs on the plants that will help nourish their larvae, typically on the underside of the leaves. Once developed, the green caterpillars have a horn on their rear end and are well camouflaged among the leaves. Once full grown, they drop to the ground and spin a loose cocoon which is partially protected by a layer of leaves and other natural litter. In the north, where the season is short, there is only one generation per year whereas in the south, there is usually more than one generation each summer. In the Midwest, adult hummingbird moths start flying in early spring, but they are most active during mid- to late-summer. If you have phlox, beebalm, honeysuckle, or verbena in your gardens there is a good chance you will see these wonderful little insects feasting on their nectar.