Friday, June 02, 2006

Floats like a Hummingbird

Last summer I despaired of ever seeing a clearwing moth--then finally, in September, a couple turned up. I'd never tried to identify one of these guys before--and after much struggle, involving travels down some wrong roads, and help from readers (some of which I resisted at first) I finally identified them as Hemaris thysbe, hummingbird clearwings. (See Welcome Clearwing! and Hemaris thysbe)

Hemaris thysbe on buddleia, September 2005

Yesterday afternoon, June 1, with September months away, I saw what I thought was a clearwing moth feeding among the bumblebees on the honeysuckle just outside the front door. I though this might be a snowberry, Hemaris diffinis, but then I started checking around. According to What's that Bug?, this is a sphinx moth, as the clearwings are, but they identify this one as a Nessus sphinx (Amphion floridensis).

Hovering over the honeysuckle in June

It seems that the clear, yellow bands on the abdomen are what trigger the identification. But I'm confused--this is definitely a moth that hovers when it feeds (thus the blurry photos), which I thought was the sign of a hummingbird moth, a clearwing. This moth was smaller than the thysbe, and differently marked, but similar in morphology.

Clear wings? Or an illusion created by the blur?

Cindy of Woodsong has a picture of a moth that she identifies as Nessus sphinx here that looks like my moth. So, does the Nessus float like a hummingbird?


Submitted to this week's Friday Ark. Go on over and see who all's on board.

10 comments:

bev said...

It certainly has the body and markings of a Nessus Sphinx, but I see what you mean about the wings looking clear. Maybe they always look that way when in flight. Not sure about that. I think all Sphinx moths would be able to hover like a Hummingbird. That said, the only time I have seen and photographed a Nessus was when I found one resting atop a juniper at Foley Mountain Conservation Area. I think, based on the body markings, I'd be inclined to think it's a Nessus.

Cindy said...

definitely a nessus Pam.. those bright yellow stripes give them away every time. I love em all, great post :)

Pamela Martin said...

Thanks Bev, Cindy. Nessus it is then.

Since I found this moth a thysbe started showing up on the same honeysuckle, and black and tiger swallowtails and monarchs have been in the yard. Seems to be a great year so far for moths and butterflies!

Cindy said...

I forgot to add that your first photo is a slender clearwing- (Hemaris gracilis). Hummingbird clearwings (Hemaris thysbe) do not emerge until later in the season.
and yep, they can all hover.. magical aren't they :)
(and not all sphingidae species can hover to feed- most, but not all)

Pamela Martin said...

The first photo is from last September, pretty sure it's a hemaris--but I did see a similar moth a few days after the Nessus I thought was a thysbe, but seemed small, so I guess that was gracilis. A quick search reveals that wing markings and markings of the underside of the abdomen distinguish these two--neither of which I saw...

Anonymous said...

We just saw a Nessus Sphinx in our red lilac tree tonight. My husband & daughter saw it earlier today. We thought it was cool. Thanks for the information- it took my husband awhile to find exactly what it was with pictures to look at it.

Anonymous said...

You all cleared up a mystery for me. Saw a Nessus, I think, along the Susquehanna River in Pa. today(4/24) on wild phlox. Very cool!

Anonymous said...

I was out watering yesterday and saw a nessus for the first time. It was so interesting to watch. I thought it was a hummingbird at first but knew something was different. The one I saw had the yellow stripes and was feeding on my orange and yellow lantana. It was really cool to watch.

Anonymous said...

My daughter seen a Nessus today (4/17/15) at our purple Lilac. We live in Southern Illinois. I've never even heard of this moth but she described it to me and when I showed her your pictures she said that is exactly what she saw. I hope I'm blessed with seeing it as well and am anxiously awaiting its return.

Unknown said...

I saw one in Ukrainian village, chicago il tonight