Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Hummingbird Moth

These photos of a white-lined sphinx moth, or hummingbird moth - Hyles lineata - were taken right along Highway 95, between Goldfield and Beatty, Nevada, on our recent trip to the Mojave Desert via Titus Canyon. I didn't mark the exact location of these photos, but the elevation is about 4700 feet.

We were lucky to have fairly low temps throughout our 5-day trip - which is good, because my truck doesn't have air-conditioning. Low, in this case, means anything under 95 to 100° F.
We stopped because of the wildflowers, which were spectacular in places, even though we missed the main show. The moth was sipping evening nectar from some Prince's plume: Stanleya pinnata.
And here's the moth! When first seeing these moths, one is often inclined to think they are small hummingbirds. They hover just like hummingbirds, make a humming or buzzing sound while flying, and dart around very quickly.
The wings are brightly colored, though it's difficult to get them to sit still long enough for perfect photos!
As you can see, they hover over the target flower, and suck nectar through a long proboscis, which is essentially a tubular tongue.
Their wings are usually just a blur, and in this photo the proboscis is coiled.

Photos: May 1, 2009.


Amanda@Lady Scientist said...

That is awesome! I didn't even know those guys existed. I'm glad you posted this.

Lockwood said...

Those are some great photos! The resemblence is uncanny... if you had posted these without comment, I would have assumed it was a hummingbird.

Desert Survivor said...

Excellent photos!

GeologyJoe said...

that's one neat critter.

Cath@VWXYNot? said...

I remember seeing these guys on my first ever trip to the US when I was 17. I thought they were hummingbirds, which was exciting enough for a Brit, but then one of them stopped and I totally freaked out when I realised it was an insect!

Silver Fox said...

Thanks, everyone! At first, when we saw it, we thought it was a hummingbird - one clue is that these moths are often out around dusk, and I think that hummingbirds prefer daylight (not sure, but that's when I've seen them most). I took almost constant photos, never knowing which ones would be in focus, then culled a whole bunch.

Cath, insects can be cool! (You probably already know that.) I grew up loving many kinds of insects, fed "pet" grasshoppers grass (which they probably hated, since they were squirting tobacco juice at me the entire time). Weird, maybe.

Christie Rowe said...

I hope you know this song: The bird of the bee of the moth by They Might be Giants


Silver Fox said...

Christie, I hadn't heard that song - thanks! Great lyrics!