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Darrell Blackwelder: This gentle pollinator does not sting

Kristin’s dad was looking at his butterfly bush this week and noticed something unusual flying slowly around the blooms.

At first glance it appeared to be a large bumble bee or maybe a small hummingbird. What her dad had discovered was a hummingbird moth.

Its methodical, slow hovering and clear wings are very much like a hummingbird. These insects’ wings have as rapid a wingbeat as a hummingbird — up to 70 beats per second — as they feed on trumpet shaped flowers.

However, it is a true insect and has a long proboscis (snout) like a butterfly and an antenna like a moth. Some have vivid green colors with yellow and black striping, while other species look very much like large bees.

No need to fear this gentle insect as they do not sting. It’s one of the few moths that fly during the day but can also be found feeding on night-blooming flowers such as the evening primrose.
The moth is a pollinator, spreading flower pollen as it flies from bloom to bloom. Keep a watchful eye out as these striking moths take advantage of flower gardens, especially butterfly bushes.

Go to https://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/pollinators/pollinator-of-the-month/hummingbird_moth.shtml for more detailed information.

Darrell Blackwelder deblackw@ncsu.edu is the retired horticulture agent with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service in Rowan County.

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