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It’s a tiny bird? A hummingbird, perhaps? No, it’s a moth!

Thursday, August 6th 2020, 11:54 am - What was this creature fluttering around my flowers on a warm July evening? An expert at the University of Guelph tells us more about the hummingbird clearwing moth.

One beautiful summer evening I was sitting on my porch, only to notice something fluttering vigorously around my flowers.

At first glance I thought it was a baby hummingbird, but then I noticed its body had a pom-pom-like tuft at the tip of the tail. This creature also appeared to have antennae and a long straw-like mouthpart rolling out like a new year’s party favour.

That’s when it hit me - this was some sort of insect.

Sphinx moth spotted in Guelph, Ontario (Courtesy: Marta Czurylowicz) Sphinx moth spotted in Mississauga, Ont. Courtesy: Marta Czurylowicz

“Sphinx moths are broad-bodied moths with very long front wings. They have a very characteristic shape,” said Stephen Marshall, a professor emeritus at the University of Guelph. “Within flight they do look remarkably like ruby-throated hummingbirds, but in fact, they're an aptly-named sphinx moth called the hummingbird clearwing moth.”

Sphinx Moth. Courtesy of Marta Czurylowicz. Sphinx moths hover in midair while they feed on nectar from flowers. Courtesy: Marta Czurylowicz

I couldn’t help but be a bit grossed out, but also intrigued. Marshall said these insects typically fly at night or in the evening.

“But a couple of genera fly during the day and what you saw was one of those genera. It's a group called the clearwing moths because the scales that give moths the characteristic pigmentation are absent from the middle part of the wing. So the wing is clear. Unlike most sphinx moths, they fly during the day,” said Marshall.

I still had so many questions - to find out more, watch the video above.

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