The Hummingbird Moth – Possibly The Most Amazing Moth Of All

The Hummingbird Moth is a fascinating insect that has captured the attention of many gardeners and nature enthusiasts. As an insect that closely resembles a hummingbird, it is often mistaken for one. However, upon closer inspection, one can see that it is, in fact, a moth.

With its unique appearance and behavior, the hummingbird moth is a popular topic among those interested in insects and pollinators.

hummingbird moth

As a pollinator, the hummingbird moth plays an important role in the ecosystem.

It feeds on the nectar of flowers, and in doing so, helps to pollinate them. This makes it a valuable asset to gardeners who rely on pollinators to help their plants thrive. Additionally, the hummingbird moth is a fascinating insect to observe, with its rapid wingbeats and hovering behavior. For those who are interested in insects, the hummingbird moth is a must-see.


As an amateur Lepidopterist, I have always been fascinated by the hummingbird moth. Seeing one for the first time is what got me into the hobby. This amazing creature is a member of the sphinx moth family (Sphingidae) and is known for its unique appearance and behavior. They are also commonly referred to as being part of the Hawk Moth family too.

In this section, I will provide an overview of the hummingbird moth, including its appearance, behavior, and habitat.


The hummingbird moth is, in the main, a rather plump insect with a wingspan of about 1.5 to 2 inches. Its wings are clear, with a black or brown border, and are nearly invisible when it flies. The body is covered with scales that give it a reddish-brown color, and the tip of the tail opens into a fan. The antennae are short and thick, and the legs are relatively short.

Hummingbird moth caterpillar with spike / horn

The caterpillar of the hummingbird moth is green with white stripes and has a horn at the end of its body. The horn is not dangerous and is used by the caterpillar as a deterrent to protect itself from predators.


One of the most fascinating things about the hummingbird moth is its behavior. Like its namesake, the hummingbird moth hovers in mid-air while it feeds on nectar from flowers.

It uses its long proboscis to suck the nectar out of the flowers, just like a hummingbird. This behavior is an example of convergent evolution, where two unrelated species develop similar adaptations to survive in similar environments.

Some variations of hummingbird moths are also known for their incredible camouflage.

bee like hummingbird moth

When it lands on a flower, it folds its wings up and looks just like a bumblebee. This helps it avoid predators that might mistake it for a more dangerous insect.


The hummingbird moth can be found in a wide range of habitats, from gardens and meadows to forests. It is most commonly found in North and Central America, although some species can be found in other parts of the world as well.

The life cycle of the hummingbird moth includes several generations each year. The female lays her eggs on the leaves of plants that the caterpillars will eat. The caterpillars then go through several stages of growth before pupating and emerging as adult moths.

In conclusion, the hummingbird moth is a fascinating insect that is well worth studying. Its unique appearance and behavior make it a favorite of insect enthusiasts, and its ability to adapt to a wide range of habitats makes it an important part of many ecosystems.


A hummingbird moth diet consists of nectar and host plants. I’ll explain each in more detail below.


Like hummingbirds, the moths love nectar! They feed on nectar from a variety of flowers, particularly those with tubular blooms. Some of their favorites include bee balm, viburnums, and red flowers. They are also known to feed on evening primrose and salvia, among others.

in action with its long proboscis eating nectar

Host Plants

While the adults love nectar, larvae have more specific dietary needs. They require host plants such as snowberry, honeysuckle, cherries, and viburnums. These plants provide the necessary nutrients for my larvae to grow and develop properly.

In particular, snowberry and honeysuckle are important host plants for the species. Snowberry clearwings, a close relative, rely heavily on snowberry bushes for their survival.

It’s important to note that not all species of hummingbird moths have the same host plant preferences. For example, the hummingbird clearwing prefers plants in the rose family, such as hawthorn, cherries, and plums.

In summary, their diet consists of nectar from a variety of flowers and also host plants for larvae. By planting a diverse range of flowers and host plants, you can help support my favourite moth species and other pollinators in your area.

Range and Distribution

As a nature enthusiast, I find the range and distribution of the hummingbird moth to be fascinating. In this section, I will explore the areas where these unique creatures can be found.

North America

The hummingbird moth is a common sight in North America, where it is found from southern Canada to Central America. They are most abundant in the United States, where they can be seen flitting from flower to flower in gardens, meadows, and woodlands. In North America, the most common species of hummingbird moth is the clearwing hummingbird moth.

Africa and Asia

Hummingbird moths are also found in Africa and Asia, where they are often known as hawk moths. These moths are slightly different from their North American cousins, but they share many of the same characteristics. In Africa and Asia, hummingbird moths can be found in a variety of habitats, including woodlands, grasslands, and even deserts.


In Europe, the hummingbird moth is found primarily in the southern parts of the continent. They are most commonly found in the Mediterranean region, where they can be seen hovering over flowers in gardens and meadows. In Europe, the hummingbird moth is also known as the hummingbird hawk-moth. In the UK some variations of it are called the BumbleBee Moth.

Overall, the hummingbird moth has a wide range and can be found in many different parts of the world. They are most common in areas with warm climates and abundant flowers. If you are lucky enough to spot one of these beautiful creatures, take a moment to watch as they hover and dart from flower to flower, just like their namesake, the hummingbird.

How Far Can A Hummingbird Moth Travel?

Hummingbird Moths are strong fliers and can cover considerable distances within their local habitats. They are capable of foraging across a range of flowering plants, seeking nectar from various sources.

Their flight capabilities allow them to move between different locations, including gardens, meadows, and other habitats where nectar-rich flowers are present.

Hummingbird Moths can disperse over relatively large areas, exploring new territories and colonizing suitable habitats. While they may not cover vast distances like migratory birds, they can gradually extend their range by utilizing suitable resources and adapting to different environments.

Factors such as wind patterns, food availability, and mating behaviors can influence the dispersion patterns of Hummingbird Moths.


As a moth fan, I find the Hummingbird Moth fascinating, and one of the most interesting aspects of this creature is its identification. There are several different types of Hummingbird Moths, each with its own unique characteristics.

Snowberry Clearwing

Snowberry Clearwing

One of the most common types of Hummingbird Moths is the Snowberry Clearwing.

This moth is easily identified by its clear wings and black and yellow striped body. Snowberry Clearwings are often mistaken for bees or wasps because of their appearance.

Hemaris Genus

The Hemaris Genus includes several different species of Hummingbird Moths.

These moths are usually identified by their thick, barrel-shaped bodies and long front wings.

Hemaris Clearwing

The wings of Hemaris moths are clear with a black or brown border and are nearly invisible when they fly.

Males have a flared “tail” like that of a hovering hummingbird.

Slender Clearwing

The Slender Clearwing is another type of Hummingbird Moth.

This moth is smaller than other types of Hummingbird Moths and is identified by its slender body and clear wings. The Slender Clearwing is often mistaken for a bee or wasp because of its appearance.

slender clearwing

In general, Hummingbird Moths can be identified by their tapered, delicate shape, particularly when viewed in profile.

White Lined Sphinx

The White-lined Sphinx is another moth that is often mistaken for a hummingbird because of its ability to hover in mid-air and its rapid wing movements.

However, the White-lined Sphinx is much larger than the Hummingbird Moth, and its wings are not clear like those of the Hummingbird Moth.

white lined sphinx moth

Overall, identifying Hummingbird Moths can be a fun and rewarding experience for anyone interested in entomology. By paying attention to the unique characteristics of each type of Hummingbird Moth, you can become an expert at identifying these fascinating creatures.


I’m a nature nerd who is fascinated by the natural world. I find the Hummingbird Moth to be an incredibly important and interesting species. There are a few different reasons why I believe this to be the case.


One of the most important roles that Hummingbird Moths play in their ecosystem is that of pollinators.

Like hummingbirds, these moths are attracted to brightly colored flowers with long, tubular shapes. When they feed on the nectar of these flowers, they inadvertently pick up pollen on their bodies.

As they move from flower to flower, they transfer this pollen, allowing plants to reproduce and produce fruit.


While Hummingbird Moths are important pollinators, they are also an important food source for a variety of predators. For example, the larvae of the Hawk Moth, also known as the Hornworm, feed on the leaves of plants that Hummingbird Moths feed on. Birds, bats, and other predators also feed on these moths.

bird eating a butterfly

Despite the fact that they are preyed upon by other animals, Hummingbird Moths are still an important part of their ecosystem. As pollinators, they help to ensure the survival of many plant species, while also providing food for a variety of predators.

Gardening Tips

As a gardener, I love attracting hummingbird moths to my garden. Not only are they fascinating to watch, but they are also valuable pollinators. Here are some tips for attracting hummingbird moths to your garden and providing for their needs.

Attracting Hummingbird Moths

The first step to attracting hummingbird moths is to plant fragrant flowers that they love. Some of their favorites include bee balm, moonflower, morning glories, jasmine, and honeysuckle. These flowers have a sweet scent that the moths can’t resist, and they provide a good source of nectar.

Another way to attract hummingbird moths is to provide a shallow dish of water. They need to drink water just like any other animal, and a shallow dish with pebbles or rocks in it will provide a safe place for them to drink.

Host Plants for Caterpillars

If you want to see hummingbird moth caterpillars in your garden, you need to provide host plants for them to feed on. Some of their favorite host plants include several species of honeysuckle, dogbane, and some members of the rose family such as hawthorn, cherries, and plums.

moth eggs

One host plant that is particularly important for the hummingbird moth is the tomato hornworm. This caterpillar is a favorite food of the hummingbird moth, and providing a few tomato plants in your garden will help attract them.

Other Tips

Here are a few other tips for attracting hummingbird moths to your garden:

  • Plant a variety of flowers to provide a continuous source of nectar throughout the growing season.
  • Avoid using pesticides, as they can harm both the moths and their caterpillars.
  • Provide a sheltered area for the moths to rest during the day, such as a hedge or shrub.
  • Consider planting columbines, which are a favorite of both the hummingbird moth and the bee moth.
  • Keep an eye out for the snowberry clearwing hummingbird moth and the hummingbird hawk-moth, which are similar in appearance to the hummingbird moth but have slightly different habits and preferences.

By following these tips, you can attract hummingbird moths to your garden and provide for their needs. Not only will you be helping these fascinating creatures, but you’ll also be helping to pollinate your plants and create a more diverse and healthy garden ecosystem.


In researching and writing this article, I have learned a lot about the fascinating Hummingbird Moth. These moths are members of the Sphingidae family, which also includes the Snowberry Clearwing and the Hummingbird Clearwing.

One of the most interesting things I learned is that the Hummingbird Moth has evolved to resemble a hummingbird through convergent evolution. This means that even though they are not closely related, they have evolved similar traits due to similar environmental pressures.

It’s also worth noting that the Hummingbird Moth has gained some pop culture fame thanks to its appearance in the movie “Silence of the Lambs.”

It wasn’t the main moth featured though, that honour went to the Deaths Head Hawk Moth. However, it’s important to remember that this is a fictional portrayal and not an accurate representation of the moth’s behavior or appearance.

deaths head hawk moth illustration

In terms of identification, the Hummingbird Moth can be recognized by its clear wings, heavy body, and long front wings. The wings are nearly invisible when the moth is in flight, which can make it difficult to spot.

Finally, it’s worth mentioning that the Hummingbird Moth is quite shy and fleeting in nature. Take the time to look around when you are out and about. Once you seen, they are never forgotten and they’re truly a beautiful sight to behold.

If you are lucky enough to see one in person, please take the time to appreciate this amazing creature.

Tom Watson