March 2013

A Real Humdinger

I found this interesting moth in my yard today. He or She was simply stunning! I looked it up online and found it to be Hemaris thysbe, a clearwing Hummingbird Moth. After I released it, it quickly found a friend! I thought you may be interested in having a look as I have never seen one before.

 

Answer

Male Clearwing Hawk Moth (Cephonodes kingii). Photo by Kristene Kerr copper sulphate Clearwing Hawk Moth (Cephonodes kingii) pair. Photo by Kristene Kerr

The Discovery Centre often gets questions about the Hummingbird Moth. However, the moth photographed here is not Hemaris thysbe, which occurs exclusively in North America. Instead the species you have found is Cephonodes kingii the Clearwing Hawk Moth, which is also commonly referred to as a “Hummingbird Moth”.

These moths are a day-flying species and hover at flowers in order to suck up nectar which is why they often get mistaken for hummingbirds. There are other hawk moth species referred to as Hummingbird Moths; these are the species of the Cephonodes and Macroglossum genera. However the clear-winged Cephanodes species are particularly hummingbird like.

Sadly the hummingbirds are not a group of birds that ever reached Australia. They are restricted to what is known as the “New World” which encompasses the Americas and surrounding islands and countries.

There are only a handful of Australian birds which resemble hummingbirds, but these are much less adept and agile compared to both hummingbirds and hawk moths. In the absence of real hummingbirds, certain moths have moved into the same ecological niche. This is a common phenomenon in nature where unrelated species look and behave in the same way, to take advantage of a similar lifestyle. 

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