Monday, March 26, 2012


Hummingbird clearwing Hemaris thysbe, also known as Hummingbird moth, is out in the gardens and fields sipping nectar during the day and often at dusk. 

People sometimes confuse Hummingbird clearwings with a real hummingbird due to its habit of hovering while feeding with its long proboscis. Host plants include honeysuckle, hawthorns, plums, cherries and snowberries.

Note the difference in the two species above and below. 

Snowberry clearwing Hemaris diffinis is more black but its coloration can vary. 
As its name implies . . .  this clearwing relies on snowberry. Other host plants are honeysuckle and dogbane.  Snowberry clearwings also fly about in the daytime and are more often seen in the summer months. 

All of the clearwings or Hummingbird moths are spritely flyers and like many butterflies they depend on our not being too fastidious with our clearing of debris, for they need leaves to spin within their cocoons and detritus along the ground offers protective covering through the cold winter months, while the pupa wait for spring. 

The lovely pale green Luna moth Actias luna, is one of the largest moth species in North America and is only active in the dark hours of night. Females can lay up to two hundred eggs. Here at Flower Hill Farm our Shagbark Hickory, White birch, Walnuts and even Sumac act as host plants. The caterpillars munch on leaves and shed their skin five times, as their relative butterflies and then overwinter in their silky cocoons beneath the chosen host plant. 
The adults have no mouth parts . . . imagine a simple life of sleep, flying and mating for one week only and you have an idea of the life of an adult Luna moth.
I forget to turn off a light the night this Luna moth comes to visit. Early next morning I carefully carry the sleeping moth inside, so that the birds will not have an unfair advantage. He sleeps all day and when the curtain of night falls, I hold him out to the dark air and watch as the beautiful creature takes his ghostly flight into a night of pursuing pleasure.  
They have amazingly strong wings but sometimes fall prey to our beloved bats.

A member of the Saturniidae family, Luna moths only have one brood here in the northeast. I usually see them in May but the one above was found in June. It looks like it might be already a few days old.

Another member of the Saturniidae family, the Rosy maple moth Dryocampa rubicunda also has no need of a mouth for they too do not eat as adults. Much smaller than their Luna cousins, the Rosy maple moths will also be attracted to a light and then will sleep through the night and next day. If a light is accidentally left on, I try to get them to fly into nearby plants in order to hide from birds. Females lay eggs on leaves of oak, sugar maple and other maples. The caterpillars spin a cocoon and sleep through the winter months. 

A mystery moth in the clutch of a flower crab spider. 
Moths can be very beautiful and their caterpillars can be very striking too. 

White Spotted Sable Moth Anania funebris, can be found in our fields and gardens in the daylight. 
The host plant is Goldenrod.

Intricately patterned mystery moth found on tree peony leaf.

Lovely white mystery moth with a yellow line through both wings found on iris. 

I missed Katarina's Floral Friday because I was enjoying a break with a dear friend by the sea . . .  and studying color with a fabulous expressionist painter and teacher through Provincetown Art Association and Museum.
Though there is not a wildflower within any of these photos the moths are pretty wild and hopefully considered wild enough for Gail's Wildflower shadings. 

The light and colors in Wellfleet, North Truro and Provincetown were magical! 
Wildlife was wondrous. 
I came home to spring but tonight is dipping down into the teens. Ouch! 

I think it fitting that upon arriving home . . . my first wildlife encounter in the gardens would be this magnificent Turkey vulture. (An amazing encounter I will share later.)
My teacher has encouraged me to use black paint in my work. 
Black can surely evoke power.
Turkey vultures are certainly more 'photogenic' than I had imagined. Attractive might be a stretch but truly . . . what a magnificent creature. 
Happy Spring to All! 


Country Gal said...

All such wonderful photos ! WOW! AWESOME ! Great post ! Have a good day !

FlowerLady said...

Fantastic photos once again! Thank you for posting and sharing.

Hugs ~ FlowerLady

Tammie Lee said...

so many beautiful and interesting moths, loved each image you have captured. i can almost smell the lovely flowers too.

how wonderful that you took lessons for your art.

and the vulture, that is one awesome photograph! they are so big.

lovely spring to you~

Randy Emmitt said...


Love clearwing moths, takes a lot of patience to get such great photos of them. Looking forward to hearing the vulture story.

Gillian Olson said...

I am delighted that you have pictures of the hummingbird moth. I have a few hovering pictures, but no stills, and those are from France and Italy (I have never seen one here). All your pictures are amazing. Thank you for sharing.

Indie said...

The pictures of the Luna Moth are incredible. Gorgeous! I see a lot of the Snowberry Clearwings here - we call them Bumble Bee Moths. The little Rosy Maple moth is so fuzzy and cute! Love all the pics!

Andrea said...

Hello Carol, i miss you. Maybe there are no clearwings nor luna moth here as i still haven't seen them. But that last one you call mystery moth is very common here, i even see it sometimes at night in my room when i open my window.

Jane and Lance Hattatt said...

Hello Carol:
We really must take lessons from you and learn to be calm when dealing with Moths when they come in to the house attracted to the light. Unlike any Moth fortunate enough to enter your house at night, any Moth coming here is greeted by two adults flapping their wings about and generally having a fit!!

We are absolutely entranced by your photographs of the clearwing Butterflies. It is so beguiling to see the Buddleia flower heads through their wings. It is as if plant and Butterfly become one.

And, as for the Turkey Vulture, what a majestic subject this would make for a painting......and black as the night!!!

Eva said...

It's a pleasure to welcome you back. You were missed. The photos of the Cape are "picture-perfect." (And, I hope, just a tease.) As for the mystery moths—I rather like the use of the word; and my poetic self doesn't mind the least that there is no identification. Their beauty is enough. I am hoping some day to see a luna moth in person. I was very moved by your gesture of bringing the sleeping moth inside to protect it.

Jane and Lance Hattatt said...

Hello Carol [again!]:
Rather foolishly, as we now realise, we referred in our comment to 'butterflies' when, of course, we should have paid more attention to what we were reading and written 'moths' - the subject of the post.

We shall write lines as punishment. "We must learn to distinguish a moth from a butterfly particularly when we are shown pictures of moths"!!

Carol said...

Thank you EVERYONE for sharing your thoughts with me!
Dear Eva, the cape photos are indeed a 'tease' for I have some wonderful wildlife photos to share later on.
Dear J&L, I can so easily understand how you may have made the mistake. Not to mention the fact that my title states BUTTERFLIES in bold letters. The best way to tell moths and butterflies apart is by looking at the antennae. Butterflies have the little clubs on the end of their antennae . . . where moths do not. Otherwise some can be very hard to tell apart. ;>)

Laila said...

Fascinating photos of fascinating creatures! Did you really encounter that Turkey vulture in your garden or do I misinterprete your text? Our raven couple in our forest are peanuts in comparison!
Happy 'spring to you!

sandy said...

I didn't even realize that there was another kind of hummingbird moth. These are wonderful shots, and I must remember to come back here when I need to match a find with a name.

Wasn't expecting to see the vulture, Carol.

Donna@GWGT said...

Beautiful images, Carol. The photo of the vulture is a nice capture. He is very photogenic. I saw some in a local town park lately and found that very odd for them to be in such a heavily populated area. Nature seems to be changing gears a bit.

sweetbay said...

Beautiful images of magical creatures! The first Hummingbird Moths showed here this week. Great iconic mage of the vulture btw. lol

Carol said...

Laila, The Turkey vulture was perching in a tree in our south field. it was really incredible and I have many many more photos of our encounter. Coming soon!

Donna@Gardens Eye View said...

Carol I am just stunned at the beauty of your pictures of capture these takes so much talent and patience...I spent a long time savoring wonderful to be by the sea and studying art...bliss!

Gale said...

Those pictures are just amazing! Thanks for sharing!

Lea said...

Great photos!
Beautiful moths!
Of course, turkey vultures are wonderful - just think what a mess we would have if it weren't for scavengers!
Happy gardening!
Lea's Menagerie

Sarah Laurence said...

Wow, what gorgeous vacation pix! I'd love to see the photos you'll snap of Maine. Give me a shout if you're coming through Brunswick. I'd love to meet you if I'm in town and not busy with visitors. Summers can get crazy.

I'm wondering if hummingbird moths are native to Japan too. 10 years ago in Japan, I saw something striped and furry that flew like a hummingbird. I couldn't tell if it was a bird or a large wasp. It looked a bit like your second species but it was moving too fast to see well.

RobinL said...

The moths, butterflies and hummingbirds that visit my garden are honored guests! Thanks for sharing yours.

Gunilla said...

Amazinf photos and the picture of the bird is outstanding.

Have a great day

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