We had a strange visitor at the Byam Learning Garden. At first, it appeared as though a small hummingbird was feeding from newly planted butterfly bushes. But after closer inspection we discovered the visitor was not a bird at all, but an insect – more specifically a hummingbird moth.
The Hummingbird Hawk-moth (Macroglossum stellatarum) is a species of Sphingidae, hawk moth with a long proboscis, which regularly hovers, making an audible humming noise. This make it look remarkably like a hummingbird when it feeds on flowers.
Hummingbird Moths grow up to two inches long. They have an olive-green body with red bands across their abdomen. Green body “fur” and burgundy wing scales suggest a small ruby throated hummingbird.
Hummingbird Moths live in gardens and forest edges. It is distributed throughout the eastern U.S. and Canada, where it ranges far to the north. Its larvae feed on honeysuckle, buckbrush, wild cherry and plum. Adults hover take nectar at many different flowers, including honeysuckle, beebalm, phlox, lilac and bergamot.
Here’s a video of a hummingbird moth, where you can see how easy it is to mistake these insects for hummingbirds.