30 July 2009

Hummingbird clearwing


This morning's excitement was this moth hummingbird clearwing (Hemaris thysbe). I was standing at the kitchen window waiting for my coffee when I spotted it flying around the honeysuckle bush covering our mailbox. Luckily it was still there when I came out with the camera a few minutes later.

These moths are difficult to photograph. The picture above was at a shutter speed of 1/125 and the wings—because they beat so fast—are just a pair of blurs. There wasn't enough light for a faster shutter. The result was a bit better after I switched to flash with a shutter speed of 1/160 s. Notice that the moth seems to be supporting itself on the leaves and the petals with its legs.


The red arrow is pointing at the unrolled proboscis entering into the honeysuckle flower. This is probably the Japanese honeysuckle, an alien species. According to this site, it is one of the "least wanted" introduced plants. Heck, native moths feed on it, native bees feed on it. I don't see anything wrong with that and mine is staying.


Anonymous said...

have you ever "tasted" the honey part of it. it's as sweet as it smells.


I think I did, but I don't quite remember what it was like. I'll try again tomorrow!

Anonymous said...

When I was a kid, I and my friends tasted the nectar of honeysuckle. There is a technique to this, if you weren't taught how to do it: take a fresh flower off the vine (i.e., a white flower), pinch the base of the flower between thumb and forefinger and pull gently -- the stamens and pistil, when withdrawn, will have a bead of nectar at the end. Now taste!


George said...

"Heck, native moths feed on it, native bees feed on it. I don't see anything wrong with that and mine is staying."

Sigh. A native flowering shrub would also supply nectar to bees and moths. Also, its leaves would nourish insect herbivores (which Japanese honeysuckle does much less, if at all) and its offspring would not grow spread into large monocultures in nearby native areas (which Japanese honeysuckle does, its seeds dispersed by birds). That might be an interesting experiment -- how is the snail community different in a native woodland vs. one that has large stands of buckthorn or honeysuckle.

I can't cast stones, the house I live in has several large invasive shrub species in the backyard that I haven't the wherewithal to remove, but I wish I did.

Douglas Tallamy's book "Bringing Nature Home" gives good arguments for the value of native plants in landscaping.