Hummingbird moths are large, nectar-sipping moths that sometimes get mistaken for hummingbirds. They fly similarly to hummingbirds and can hover in front of flowers while they prepare their tongues to feed. The moths accomplish these flying feats in the same fashion as hummingbirds do – by beating their wings at a rapid rate. The wing beats of the moths create a buzzing sound, similar to that produced by hummingbirds.
Scientists recognize many different hummingbird-moth species, but they place all of them in the genus hemaris. While many species inhabit the old world, North America is only home to four species. Sometimes, the name “clearwing” is used to describe these moths as they often lose the scales on patches of their wings.
Hummingbird moths are diurnal, meaning that they seek food and mates during the day. While adult hummingbird moths are generalists that subsist on the nectar from many different plant species, their caterpillars have more restrictive diets. Although it varies from species to species, dogbane, honeysuckle and members of the rose family are the most common host plants for the caterpillars.
In northern locations, hummingbird moths produce only one generation per year. Southern hummingbird moths are known to produce two generations per year.