Thursday, July 17, 2008

Plant Monarda and They Will Come


A little over a week ago, I commented to Romie that we'd not seen any Hummingbird Moths (Hemarus diffinis) yet in the gardens. I remember last year, when we saw our first one and wondered what it was. We were totally fascinated with it and could stand in the garden for a very long time watching them flit from bloom to bloom.

Not even three days after I'd made that comment, I saw one. It was headed for the Monarda and it was then that I remembered how much they liked that last year, too. Just as we have our favorite foods, the insects do too and we may not see certain ones until their favorites start blooming.


The Monarda is in bloom now and at any given moment you can go out to Max's Garden and catch a glimpse of the Hummingbird Clearwing Moths. They're not the easiest things to photograph, but they stick around long enough to give you the opportunity to try several shots.

If you're close enough to them, you can hear the beating of their wings, much like a hummingbird's, which is part of the reason they got their common name. The other reason is because of their hovering abilities. They give the appearance of a small hummingbird as they go from flower to flower, drinking nectar.

Since the moths are so plentiful, our gardens have been home to the larval stages. I was witness to some procreation going on between two of the moths, so I would imagine we will see some caterpillars eventually.


Here is what the caterpillar looks like. In its green form it shares some of the same characteristics as the Tobacco and Tomato Hornworms. There is a brown form too, which I managed to see last summer. These photos were used with my permission on Bill Oehlke's site.


The range of the Hummingbird Moth goes as far north as the Yukon (but only in the eastern half of the U.S.), so grow some Monarda and keep an eye out for those hummer moths!

EDIT: Caterpillars spotted on July 23rd!


13 comments:

chey said...

I knew it attracted hummingbirds, but didn't realize it also attracted hummingbird moths. Thanks for the information!

Amy said...

These are new to me and so interesting. You took some great photos. Now I'm wondering if hummingbird moths live in my area.

Kylee said...

chey ~ You're welcome! :-)

Amy ~ Thanks, Amy. Yes, they do! Check here.

Entangled said...

I had no idea the larvae looked so much like hornworms. And I just learned from Gail at Clay and Limestone that these moths pupate in the soil, and at that stage also they look like something I'd probably try to get rid of. Now I know to be more careful. Thanks!

Yolanda Elizabet said...

Last year my garden was visited by a hummingbird moth for the very first time. I was very surprised when it zipped by and for a moment there I thought it was a hummingbird.

It's due to climate change that once in a blue moon I see a hummingbird moth in my garden. No hummingbirds as yet, but who knows?

Have a lovely weekend and BTW on Bliss a deep dark secret is revealed. ;-)

Earth Girl said...

I can't believe you were able to photograph them! What time of day did you see them? My monarda are in an out-of-the-way place so I will need to be purposeful to find them. I've seen them before in my garden but not on a regular basis.

Robin's Nesting Place said...

Kylee, they are so hard to photograph and you got some really amazing pictures of them. I've never seen one when it wasn't flying. They are so fast!

Karen said...

What a great closeup of them... I never noticed them like that before.

Pam/Digging said...

Nice pics. We get the clearwing and a lot of the white-lined sphinx (hummingbird) moths here in Austin. They're such a delight to see but so hard to photograph. You make it look easy.

Laura said...

So that's what they are! I've seen them flying around but never knew.
It's true what they say- You learn something new every day!

Mimi said...

Our yard has them literally by the hundreds. They seem to just love my masses of red and white valerian. The come out at dusk and look like baby hummingbirds!
If anyone wants some valerian starter plants or stems gone to seed, let me know. Hummingbirds and butterflies love valerian, too.
Mimi

Kylee said...

Entangled ~ Yes, they do look similar. I'm trying to avoid throwing anything out, unless it's a Japanese Beetle grub!

Yolanda Elizabet ~ I didn't know that you didn't have hummingbirds there! I so love them. I hope someday you DO get some, climate change or not!

Earth Girl ~ I see them in the heat of the day, almost always afternoon. Come evening, they disappear and I almost never see them in the morning, unless it's very warm and sunny.

Robin ~ They ARE fast, but like the actual hummingbird, they do rest now and then!

Karen ~ Thanks! I just got lucky, plus I'm pretty patient when I'm out there with the camera.

Pam ~ We get the hawkmoths (a.k.a. sphinx moths) at dusk and later and talk about difficult to photograph! I hate using a flash anyway, but you have no choice with those.

Laura ~ I just love it when I learn something new and my fellow bloggers have taught me SO much! :-)

Mimi ~ Are you sure you've seen the clearwings at dusk? Here, they disappear then. They're usually only active during the heat of the day, but the other hummingbird moths - the Five-Spotted Hawkmoths and the Sphinx Moths - come out at dusk and later. They like to feed on the lilies here. I seriously thought it was a hummingbird the first time I saw one, but thought it strange that it was "humming" about in the dark. But maybe they're active at different times in different locations. In any case, aren't they cool? :-)

Anonymous said...

I recently found one of these moths on my butterfly bush. I had never seen one before (we are in Ky) but after posting some photos to my blog it appears that they are all over. http://www.kerrysgarden.us/2008/06/29/hummingbird-moth/ I am amazed that I hadn't run into one before.

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