Clearwing Hummingbird Moth Overview

The Clearwing hummingbird moth, also known as simply Hummingbird clearwing, lives in North America and is quite similar to Snowberry clearwing, especially with its flight pattern that resembles a hummingbird.

Clearwing moth species summary

Scientific NameHemaris thysbe
Family NameSphingidae
Kingdom Animalia
Genus Hemaris
Habitat Open spaces, cities, yards, gardens, forests
RangeTexas, Florida, Maine, Alaska
Host PlantsBee balm, roses, dogbane, hawthorn
Moth DescriptionTransparent wings with reddish edges, olive-green body
Caterpillar DescriptionBright green with a blue horn

the Clearwing moth’s description

Clearwing hummingbird moth
Clearwing hummingbird moth

There are two types of Hummingbird moths. They can be differentiated based on colors but have a wingspan of roughly 2 inches, regardless of the variety.

The Clearwing hummingbird moth has reddish see-through wings with reddish edges. Its thorax is green, and the lower end of its body is reddish.

Is a snowberry clearwing moth the same as a clearwing hummingbird moth?

The Snowberry clearwing moth (Hemaris diffinis) has black and yellow shades in different thorax segments and resembles a bumble bee. It has black legs and a black line that crosses the entire lateral sides of its body.

On the other hand, the Hummingbird clearwing moth (Hemaris thysbe) is the more common variety that shows off an olive-green dorsal side and a reddish-brown ventral torso. It has pale-colored legs compared to the Snowberry variety.

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clearwing hummingbird moth vs. Hummingbird hawk moth

Both Clearwing and Hummingbird hawk moths belong to the same family Sphingidae — the family of hawk moths. The Hummingbird hawk-moth (Macroglossum stellatarum) is brown, with orange hindwings, while Clearwing moths are reddish and olive-brown.

Why are they named hummingbird moths?

Clearwing hummingbird moths not only look like hummingbirds but also act like one. Their flight pattern requires them to beat their wings as fast as possible in a figure-of-eight pattern.

Larva Physical Description

The body of the Clearwing hummingbird caterpillar appears bright green with a blue horn attached to its caudal end. It has a yellow stripe that resembles a vein of leaves surrounding it in its natural habitat. It measures about one inch once it reaches its full size.

Perfect Habitat

The Clearwing Hummingbird moth lives in the following types of habitats:

  • Second-growth areas
  • Fields
  • Open places
  • Cities
  • Yards
  • Towns
  • Woodlands
  • Forests
  • Suburbs
  • Flower gardens 

Host Plants

The female Clearwing hummingbird moths lay their eggs on a variety of flowers, such as honeysuckle (Lonicera), viburnum, and butterfly bush. Other host plants are:

  • Hawthorns
  • Dogbane
  • Roses
  • Plums and cherries
  • Bee balm
  • Phlox
  • Thistles
  • Snowberry

Usual Diet

As always, caterpillars feed on host plants. The adult moths sip the nectar from the following plants:

  • Beebalm
  • Japanese honeysuckle
  • Butterfly bush
  • Red clover
  • Snowberry
  • Phlox
  • Red valerian
  • Blueberry
  • Thistles
  • Salvia
  • Vetch

For some reason, adult moths prefer purple and pink flowers over the other varieties. They also tend to choose plants with long tubes because they can feed on them using long tongues.

Behavior before pupation

The Clearwing hummingbird larvae eat as much as they can during their caterpillar stage. Once they reach their full size, they suddenly drop from the host plant and start spinning cocoons around their bodies.

At this point, the leaf litter from the plants around them will hide them from potential predators. This is where they usually overwinter.

The time required to emerge from the pupa depends on the area’s climate. Generally, these moths breed more during the summer.

Unlike other moth species, the Clearwing hummingbird moths are typically diurnal.

How do these moths fly?

They can beat their wings as fast as 40 times per second. This specific flight pattern makes it easier for the Clearwing hummingbird moths to hover over the plants and flowers they want to feed on. It also makes it easier for them to move slightly backward when they need to adjust their long proboscis while feeding.

Natural Predators

The Clearwing hummingbird moth has numerous natural enemies, such as:

  • Birds
  • Mantids
  • Bats
  • Spiders

How do they fight off predators?

When threatened, these butterflies release an unpleasant odor from glands near their head. This usually makes the predators think they are poisonous.

The odor also makes it hard for predators to hold onto them once captured. This can give them more than enough time to escape.

Where does the hummingbird clearwing moth live?

The Clearwing hummingbird moth’s range is wide, including Texas, Florida, Maine, Alaska, and many other states.

Are clearwing hummingbird moths rare?

In some US states, these moths are a rare sight. Still, they are present throughout North America and fly during the day. This is why you may be lucky to see one.

Are clearwing hummingbird moths harmful?

Hummingbird moths aren’t dangerous to humans or pets. They don’t sting or bite. However, their caterpillar may become an issue in gardens, especially if there are many of them. They can defoliate plants and might be considered pests.

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