The bumblebee moth (Hemaris diffinis) is a diurnal moth that mimics a bumblebee with its yellowish or tannish body with black wings. It is also sometimes called a hummingbird moth, but that name is more appropriately given to another species, Hemaris thysbe, which looks more like a hummingbird with its greenish body and reddish wings.
The bumblebee moth belongs to a group of moths known as clearwing moths. The name clearwing moth comes from the wing patches that lack scales and are therefore transparent or clear. In fact, another name for the bumblebee moth is the snowberry clearwing because it is often found in association with snowberries, the genus of plants to which coralberries belong. Clearwing moths also belong to a larger family of moths called hawk moths or Sphingidae.
Bumblebee moths are very acrobatic fliers. They can hover and backup just like hummingbirds. In fact, they are often mistaken for small hummingbirds, which is why bumblebee moths are often called hummingbird moths even though there is another species that better fits that common name. The adult moths will drink nectar from a variety of flowers and at certain times of year can be common visitors to backyard gardens.
The bumblebee moth caterpillar is typically green with a horn on its rear. Bumblebee moths are in the same family as the tobacco hornworm and tomato hornworm. However, unlike its cousins, bumblebee moth caterpillars aren’t agricultural pests. The host plants for the bumblebee moth caterpillar include coralberry, dogbane, and honeysuckle.
In Kentucky, bumblebee moths will typically have two generations per year. The second generation of caterpillars will overwinter as a pupae. As fall approaches, the caterpillars leave their host plants and crawl into the leaf litter. Once in the leaf litter, they’ll spin their cocoons and turn into a pupae. In the spring they’ll complete their metamorphosis and emerge as an adult moth. Bumblebee moths are one of many species that benefit from not removing fall leaves from gardens or yards.
This article was part of Shannon’s original Kentucky Pollinators and Backyard Wildlife blog which evolved into the blog for Backyard Ecology. All of Shannon’s Kentucky Pollinators and Backyard Wildlife blogs can be found at https://shannontrimboli.com/posts/blog/.
Backyard Ecology: Creating Space for Pollinators and Wildlife
Nature isn’t just “out there.” It’s all around us, including right outside our doors. Hi, my name is Shannon Trimboli, and I am the host of Backyard Ecology. I live in southcentral Kentucky and am a wildlife biologist, educator, author, and owner of a nursery specializing in plants for pollinators and wildlife conservation. I started Backyard Ecology as a way to share my love of exploring nature and learning about different plants and animals. I invite you to join me as we ignite our curiosity and natural wonder, explore our yards and communities, and improve our local pollinator and wildlife habitat. Learn more or subscribe to my email list at www.backyardecology.net.