Facts About Hummingbird Moths [2023]

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Ever spotted a tiny version of a Hummingbird Moths darting from one garden bloom to the next? Chances are, you’ve crossed paths with a hummingbird moth.

These sizable insects often mimic hummingbirds due to their akin movements and flight patterns. It’s unsurprising they bear the name “hummingbird moths.” But do they play a helpful or harmful role in your garden?

What Are Hummingbird Moths?

Hummingbird Moths
Hummingbird Moths

Hummingbird moths are airborne insects, measuring about 1-2 inches in length. Various monikers are in use, depending on your geographic location. The adoption of Latin nomenclature is a practice in order to distinguish closely related insect species, as several common names overlap.”

The Hummingbird Hawk-Moth’s Range

The hummingbird hawk-moth spreads its wings across the vast tapestry of the northern Old World, spanning from the sun-kissed shores of Portugal to the enigmatic landscapes of Japan. Yet, its heart beats with warmth, favoring the embrace of southern Europe, North Africa, and lands eastward. Here, under the benevolent gaze of the sun, three generations grace Spain in a single year.

The Life Cycle of Hummingbird Moths

Freshly hatched, the larvae emerge, their translucent bodies radiating a golden hue. In their second instar, they adopt their verdant attire. A green canvas with twin gray stripes adorned in creamy borders traces the larva’s form, crowned by a horn that adorns its posterior—a hallmark of sphingids.

The Visual Marvel of Hummingbird Hawk-Moths

The hummingbird hawkmoth’s vision, a marvel of nature, has unfurled before inquisitive eyes. It has demonstrated a keen sense of color, a trichromatic visual symphony. Its sensitivity, a beacon of precision, pulses in the wavelength range of 349 to 521 nanometers. A mere 1 to 2 nanometers distinguish its discerning gaze, surpassing even the western honey bee. Among its fellow flower visitors, it shares kinship in visual prowess with the Asian swallowtail butterfly and the nocturnal elephant hawkmoth. Their sustenance, a matter of visual recognition, unfolds in vibrant hues.

Role of Hummingbird Moths in Your Garden

While the tomato hornworm and tobacco hornworm are two of the most renowned moth species, their caterpillar phase bears an unsavory reputation. They’re garden outcasts, capable of swiftly devouring tomato plants and any nightshade family member before you notice the hungry caterpillar. However, their transformation into moths can make them desirable garden guests, aiding in pollination.

Choosing Host Plants

Different species of hummingbird moths lay their eggs on assorted host plants. Host plants encompass honeysuckle, dogbane, hawthorn, cherry, plum, and viburnum. The majority of species pose minimal threats to plant health.”

Attracting Hummingbird Moths to Your Garden

Now, where and when can you encounter these intriguing hummingbird moths? They gravitate toward fragrant flowers, more abundant during warmer months. Kantor notes, “Their activity aligns with your region’s flowering season. In spring and summer, when your blossoms flourish, that’s when they’re most active.”

A hummingbird moth’s lifespan fluctuates, spanning from weeks to months. McHale clarifies that variables such as weather conditions, available shelter, and foraging capabilities influence their longevity.

Tips to Attract Hummingbird Moths

To beckon these enigmatic moths to your garden, consider these tips:

Hawk, hummingbird, and sphinx moths favor nectar-filled, tube-bottomed, or deep-throated flowers that come to life in the evening or early morning, such as butterfly bush, citrus, morning glory, petunia, or honeysuckle.” Light-colored or white flowers can also attract them.”

Incorporate larval host plants or trees in your garden. Planting these helps provide for future generations of moths. Each species of moth has specific host plants where they lay their eggs.

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