Snowberry Clearwing Moth Detailed Description

A Snowberry clearwing moth, also known as the Hummingbird moth, Hawk-moth, Sphinx moth, or simply Snowberry clearwing, is common in Canada and the US. This moth can stay awake either during the daytime or nighttime, depending on their needs.

Snowberry Clearwing Moth species summary

Scientific NameHemaris diffinis
Family NameSphingidae
Kingdom Animalia
Genus Hemaris
HabitatGardens, streamsides, fields
RangeCanada, the US
Host PlantsPlum, snowberry, dogbane
Moth DescriptionHas bumblebee-like body with clear wings
Caterpillar DescriptionGreen body with 2 horns

Clearwing Moth Description

Snowberry clearwing
Snowberry clearwing

The adults’ wingspan ranges between 1 to 2 inches. It resembles a large bumblebee because it has black and yellow horizontal stripes covering most of its thorax. They have blue tufts on the abdominal region. The Snowberry clearwings usually have thin terminal borders and elongated discal cells without any scales.

The dorsal part of the abdomen is predominantly black, with hints of olive green or golden brown shade extending to the end of the thorax. The ventral side is mostly black without any other color combination on the underside.

Its wings look clear, except for the golden brown (sometimes reddish brown) border dark scaling that outlines the outer parts and runs along the veins. These lines also transversely cross the wings and are almost perpendicular to the angle of the thorax.

Aside from these, the forewings have large patches on each wing’s central part. They don’t have dark scales like the rest of their body parts.

Unlike other insects under the Lepidoptera family, these moths have no scales that typically distinguish them from other insects. They usually shed the scales the moment they emerge from their pupa.

Male Snowberry clearwings usually have flared tails comparable to those of hummingbirds. They also have long tongues (curly proboscis) to get nectar from host plants with elongated tubes.

Apart from these characteristics, these insects always have black legs. Unlike other similar-looking species, they also have black bands that cross the side of the thorax and reach both eyes.

Caterpillar Physical Description

Snowberry Clearwing Moth Caterpillar
Snowberry Clearwing Moth Caterpillar

The Snowberry clearwing caterpillars are also called Flying lobster caterpillars. They have green bodies and black spots typically found around their spiracles. These larvae are easily identifiable by the yellow collar-like structure found immediately behind their heads.

They have pointy tails that emerge from the caudal parts of their bodies. Their “horns” have yellow bases, while the tip of the structure is black. The caterpillar will pupate in a cocoon on the ground in clusters of leaf litter.

clearwing moths vs. hummingbirds

Aside from the markings on the thorax and wings, Clearwings are usually mistaken for hummingbirds. They hover over their preferred host plants while flapping their wings and eventually creating a humming sound.

Clearwing moths are usually smaller than the birds they are named after. For reference, hummingbirds are about twice their size.

Ideal Habitat

Flying lobster caterpillars and adult insects love to stay in these types of places:

  • Gardens
  • Streamsides
  • Fields
  • Suburbs 

What do snowberry clearwing caterpillars eat?

Adult Snowberry clearwing typically lay their eggs, and their larvae feed on the following food plants:

  • Plum (Prunus domestica)
  • Snowberry (Symphoricarpos)
  • Dogbane (Apocynum)
  • Hawthorn (Crataegus)
  • Honeysuckle (Lonicera)
  • Mint (Mentha)
  • Cherry (Prunus avium)

What do clearwing moths eat?

Some of the Snowberry clearwing’s most common food sources are:

  • Dwarf bush honeysuckle
  • Thistles
  • Phlox
  • Canada violet
  • Swamp milkweed
  • Orange hawkweed
  • Beebalm
  • Lantana
  • Butterfly weed
  • Lilac 

Behavior and life cycle

These moths have 2 broods in Missouri and fly late March into September. The Clearwing moth flies during the day and night, depending on nectar availability and their feeding needs.

They usually hover over plants and flowers to get their nectar. This contrasts with other moth species that prefer “walking” or descending on the plant.

In general, they are not scared to be around people and will typically keep a safe distance from those who want to observe them. Safe distance means at least 2 meters — a good measurement that can give them enough time to react. If threatened, they can fly away from someone or something before it’s too late.

Usual Predators

Here are some of the natural predators of Snowberry clearwings:

  • Praying Mantis
  • Crab Spiders
  • Birds

Distribution

The Snowberry clearwing has been found in most of North America. In Canada, they live in British Columbia, Ontario, Manitoba, Quebec. In the US, they frequent California, Illinois, Maine, West Virginia, Florida, Missouri, and North Carolina.

Are these moths dangerous?

Clearwing moths are not dangerous. Their appearance may make it seem like you will suffer from allergies from a bite, but they don’t actually target humans in the first place. Clearwing moths also don’t sting.

5 Interesting facts about clearwing moths

  1. They aren’t a fan of color red
  2. Their caterpillars are the size of a pinky finger
  3. The 2 most prevalent hummingbird moths are Snowberry and Hummingbird clearwing
  4. They fly at 12 mph
  5. They are active at the same time as hummingbirds

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