Clearwing moths are strong and fast fliers with a rapid wingbeat, like the other members of the Sphingidae family. Most species in the group are active at dusk and feed much like hummingbirds, hovering in front of a flower and sipping nectar through their extended proboscis. In most species, the larval stage is called a “hornworm” because the caterpillar’s posterior end has a horn-like appendage protruding upward.
Like its close relative, the Hummingbird Clearwing (Hemaris thysbe), the Snowberry Clearwing (Hemaris diffinis) is a day-flying moth, has transparent wings and is a mimic. While they both hover at flowers, the Hummingbird Clearwing is said to mimic a hummingbird, while the Snowberry Clearwing is considered a bumblebee mimic. To distinguish these two clearwings, if it has black legs and a black band that crosses the eye and travels down the side of the thorax, it’s a Snowberry Clearwing.
In addition to thistle, adult Snowberry Clearwings feed on honeysuckles, snowberry, hawkweed, lilacs and Canada violets. (Thanks to Barbara and Knox Johnson for photo op.)