Thursday, July 24, 2008

What IS That Thing in the Garden??

This afternoon, I was spending time in the garden, doing what I do nearly every day... watering. I had finished with my daily chore and caught sight of something out of the corner of my eye. At first, I thought it was a bumble bee dancing among the blooms. I saw it again and noticed that it was too big to be a bumble bee (unless it was a bee on steroids). As it flew about, it reminded me of a hummingbird. Could this be a baby hummingbird? I watched it for some time and realized that it didn't really look like any type of hummingbird I had ever seen in the garden before.

I grabbed my camera in hopes of getting close enough to snap a picture of it. From bloom to bloom it would go, burying itself inside and then moving to the next bloom. Finally.. it hovered for a moment and I was able to snap a picture.

I dashed inside to upload the picture and see this little creature up close. This wasn't a hummingbird. It wasn't a bee. It wasn't a butterfly. I was baffled.

Being a naturally curious person, I had to find out just what this little 'thing' was! I did a google search on butterflies, only to come up empty handed. I then did a google search on hummingbirds and came across something that looked very similar. I read with great interest about the Hummingbird Clearwing Moth:

The Hummingbird Moth, unlike most moths, is seen on clear, sunny days. It's easily confused with hummingbirds because of its coloration and how it moves.

Hummingbird Moths grow up to two inches long. They have an olive-green body with red bands across their abdomen. Tufts of hairs from the end of the abdomen look a lot like feathers. The wings of this moth are mostly clear, sometimes with some red near the body.
Hummingbird Moths live in fields, gardens, and forest edges.

Adult Hummingbird Moths feed on nectar from many different flowers, just like hummingbirds. Some of their favorites include: Japanese Honeysuckle, Red Clover, Highbush Blueberry, thistles, wild roses, and blackberries. My little visitor seemed to have been rather taken with the petunias!

Hummingbird Moths use a long, thin, needle-like mouthpart called a proboscis to eat. The proboscis stays coiled up like a garden hose until it is time to use it. When the moth approaches a flower, it uncoils its proboscis and dips it deep into the flower where the nectar is.
Predators of Hummingbird Moths include birds, mantids, spiders, and bats.
The Hummingbird Moth was an interesting and welcome visitor to my garden. I can only wonder if it will be back.


Elaine said...

Fascinating! Hopefully he'll be around when you get your new camera so you can get even closer. Great shot, Kenn.

mike said...

I had heard of those before - I read they were attracted to petunialata vlugaris (the common petunia). :)

How very strange - almost like a sci-fi movie from the 50s.... so glad there is Google.

Nice detective work.