Darrell Blackwelder: Hummingbird moth is a gentle, pollinating insect

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 30, 2022

A friend of mine was looking at their butterfly bush this week and noticed a rather unusual insect flying slowly around the blooms. At first glance it appeared to be a large bumble bee or maybe a small hummingbird. What they had discovered was actually a hummingbird moth. The insect is very methodical, slow hovering with clear wings are very similar to a hummingbird. These insects’ wings have a rapid wingbeat as a hummingbird — up to 70 beats per second — as they feed on trumpet-shaped flowers in flower gardens. 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. There is 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 is the retired horticulture agent with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service in Rowan County. Contact him at deblackw@ncsu.edu.