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The Hummingbird Clearwing Moth – A Treat to Discover

Related Terms: insect, animals, moth, humminbird moth

The Hummingbird Clearwing Moth – A Treat to Discover


Text by Terri-Lee Reid
Images by Tom Lusk


Resembling both a bumblebee and a hummingbird, the hummingbird clearwing moth is a treat to discover.


Click to enlarge

Hovering in front of a flower, beating its wings so fast they blur and retrieving nectar with its long proboscis, there’s no wonder this beautiful creature makes us take a moment for a second glance.


A member of the sphinx moth family, the hummingbird clearwing moth has a wingspan of between four and six centimetres. Initially their wings are covered with reddish-brown scales, but after their first flight, these scales fall off leaving behind “clearwings” with the exception of veins and wing borders. Their bodies taper at both ends and are covered in olive green hairs with reddish-brown bands across the abdomen.


Unlike most other moths, clearwing hummingbird moths are active during the day. They can be seen fluttering around fields, forest edges, meadows and cultivated gardens extracting nectar from flower blossoms. The far-ranging species can be found from Newfoundland west to British Columbia, and even in Canada’s North.


The clearwing hummingbird caterpillar is yellowish-green all over with red-brown spots on its abdomen, dark green lines on its back and a horn on its tail. Rarely considered a pest, these caterpillars feed on the leaves of honeysuckle, viburnum, hawthorn, snowberry, cherries and plums.


Click to enlarge

As caterpillars, they wrap themselves in cocoons made of leaf litter and spend the winter on the ground. They emerge as beautiful clearwing hummingbird moths that can be seen flying from May typically through until July.


While adults share some of the same plant choices as the larvae, clearwing hummingbird moths also get their nectar from beebalm, phlox, cranberry, vetch and red clover.


The best way to attract this daytime-flying moth to your backyard is to grow a range of plants that attract both the caterpillar and the moth. It’s important to provide for all life stages. Avoid the use of chemical pesticides, which often harm organisms other than those intended. Caterpillars will also benefit from leaf litter left on the ground, which they will use to construct cocoons to overwinter in.


This spring, remember to take a closer look. You may just be lucky enough to find a clearwing hummingbird moth in your own backyard!


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