There are four species of clearwing (also referred to as hummingbird) moths in North America. The most familiar ones are the Snowberry Clearwing (Hemaris diffinis) and the Hummingbird Clearwing (Hemaris thysbe). These day-flying moths fly and move like hummingbirds (hovering near flowers while drinking nectar) and the males have a flared “tail” like that of a hovering hummingbird. It is also very easy to mistake one for a bumble bee. Scales cover the wings of butterflies and moths, but clearwing moths lose many of these scales and thus have partially transparent (“clear”) wings.
Like most moths, clearwing moths have a very long tongue (can be twice as long as their body) which they carry rolled under their heads and that they use to reach the nectar of long-necked flowers. They are attracted to the flowers of phlox, beebalm, honeysuckle and swamp milkweed (pictured), among others. If you approach a clearwing moth as it hovers, you may detect the humming sound that they make with their wings.
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