Imagine having a special superpower. Go ahead. Close your eyes and imagine yourself flying through the sky, turning your head 280 degrees around, or changing different colors to your surrounding to better camouflage yourself. Every animal, from invertebrates to mammals, have developed specialized and unique characteristics that help to increase the odds of survival.One amazing insect that has developed a characteristic unlike any other animal calls Pennsylvania its home. I was fortunate enough to discover this moth first hand in early July and have been astonished by what I have found. Many of you may know this interesting “copy-cat”, but most people have not been acquainted to this insect. Do you know what this creature is? If you guessed the Hummingbird Moth, you are correct! The Hummingbird Moth, also known as the “Common Clearwing” (Hemaris thysbe), is a creature like no other. This moth has developed an adaptation throughout its evolutionary process that makes its appearance as that of a hummingbird. Pictured below is first, the Hummingbird Moth, and second a Ruby-Throated Hummingbird. You can see just how similar the mimicking moth looks compared to the bird itself. How amazing!
According to the National Audubon Society, Field Guide to Insects and Spiders, “the Hummingbird Moth range stretches from coast to coast in the North and east of the Great Plains south to the Gulf. You can find this unique moth flying in Pennsylvania during the months of May – September along forest edges, meadows, and cultivated flower gardens” (National Audubon Society, Field Guide to Insects and Spiders in North America, P. 778). The flight pattern of a Hummingbird Moth is very similar to that of an actual hummingbird, so try not to be fooled as I was!Why would a moth want to disguise itself as that of a bird? There must be a reason, but what can it be? Is the reason to intimidate other insects away from a food source? Maybe its visual likeness to the hummingbird is to help ward off predators that eat moths, acting as something the predator would not want? What do you think? Feel free to post a comment if you have any ideas!
– Glacier, Summer 2010 Intern
Hummingbird Moth image taken from