If ever you have seen a Hummingbird Clearwing Moth, you were probably mesmerized as we were by the sheer look of its see-through wings and the way it hovers like a hummingbird. In fact, you might have mistaken it for one of those teeny birds. Bob and I have seen Hummingbird Clearwing Moths on a couple of occasions, once in Algonquin Park and this one above in my mom’s garden at Oxtongue Lake, Ontario.
An early June day filled with sunshine provided perfect conditions for at least a dozen Canadian Swallowtail Butterflies that were sipping nectar from my mom’s lilac bushes. As we busily snapped photos of those beauties, a Hummingbird Clearwing Moth made an appearance.
One usually associates moths with nighttime, but Hummingbird Clearwing Moths fly and feed on nectar during the daytime. Lilacs are one of the flowers that these moths will visit because the blossoms are purple and because they have deep throats. These moths seem to prefer pink and purple flowers, although not exclusively.
Rather than land on a flower like a bee, Hummingbird Clearwing Moths hover over a blossom, and that is how the species came to be referred to as Hummingbird Moth. While beating its wings rapidly to remain in one spot, a Hummingbird Clearwing Moth unfurls its long proboscis and inserts it into the throat of a flower in order to sip the nectar from deep within. These moths have a wingspan of 1 1/2- 2 inches and a body length of about 1 1/2 inches, compared to a hummingbird that has a wingspan of 3-4 inches and is about 3 inches long.
When I began to do a little reading about Hummingbird Clearwing Moths, I was fascinated to learn that their wings are almost a solid colour, dark red to black, when they emerge from their cocoons. After a Hummingbird Clearwing Moth takes its inaugural flight, the scales on the wings fall off except those that remain to form the reddish-brown borders and veins.
Being early June, this Hummingbird Clearwing Moth would have only just emerged from its cocoon within the leaf litter where it overwintered in the pupal stage. Only one generation is produced per year in the north, so sometime before August, a Hummingbird Clearwing Moth lays eggs that will hatch within one week. The caterpillars will feast until fully grown then drop to the ground, burrow into the leaf litter and spin a cocoon. There, the larvae will metamorphose in time to emerge the following spring. The miracles of life never cease, and this gem of a moth with the stained-glass wings sure proves that saying.
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