Hummingbird moths are colorful moths with incredibly ornate designs. More importantly, these moths look and act so much like hummingbirds that the two are often indistinguishable. Their ability to imitate their namesakes to such a convincing degree is the result of a natural phenomenon called convergent evolution. Following are several hummingbird moth facts that are guaranteed to blow your mind.
They Are Two Separate Species
Although these two flying creatures belong to entirely separate species, it is virtually impossible to tell them apart when viewing them from any significant distance. Only those who are adept in identifying hummingbirds, and who’ve had the chance to see these moths up close are able to easily differentiate between the two. Not surprisingly, this is exactly how nature meant it to be. The uncanny resemblance to birds helps these moths flit about unnoticed, which is important because moths make for pretty desirable bird food. Their natural disguise allows the species to survive, despite the fact that they are hardwired to live and feed during the day and sleep at night.
These Insects Are Diurnal
Most moths are nocturnal. This is why you generally only see them at night, flying around your porch light, or hanging out on exterior building walls. Given that birds are diurnal, or up and about during the day, moths can avoid becoming bird food by nature of their nighttime habits. For hummingbird moths, however, the protection of night isn’t a reality. They have to look for and consume their food during the daylight hours, which is when their very own predators are also foraging. As such, they use the act of deception to keep themselves safe. With their hummingbird-like appearance, their similar colors, and their relatively rapid movements, they can be quite convincing. They blend seamlessly into their environment and are just as indistinguishable from hummingbirds to their predators as they are to humans.
They’ve Got Strong Wings Like Hummingbirds
One of the most interesting hummingbird moth facts is that like hummingbirds, these moths also have strong and fast-moving wings. This allows them to drink nectar from plants while they hover over them. Their act of deception is so impressive that even their movements are convincing. As you likely already know, hummingbirds beat their wings so fast that it’s virtually impossible to make them out. When watching these birds in motion, you’ll find that their wings are little more than a colorful blur. Surprisingly, this is also the same with hummingbird moths. Mimicry, however, is never as good as the real thing and thus, even though they’re definitely fast-moving, they remain slightly slower than their namesakes.
These Moths Even Make The Same Distinctive Humming Sound
These moths are cleverly disguised by their bright colors and their fast-moving wings, but they also make the same distinctive sound that hummingbirds do. This makes them all the more convincing in their natural ruse. Their wings move just fast enough to produce this noise. Moreover, if they’re ever detected, their strength and speed is often sufficient for making a quick getaway.
Hummingbird Moths Can Be Found Throughout Much Of The World
You don’t have to travel to an exotic location to catch a glimpse of these wonderfully strange creatures. They are found throughout much of North America, as well as throughout parts of Europe, Asia, and Africa. They’re breeding, however, is generally reserved for warmer climates. Breeding for these creatures generally takes place in Northern Africa, Southern Europe, and various eastern regions.
Their Copycat Looks Aren’t Their Only Line Of Defense
One thing that really sets them apart from hummingbirds (apart from their smaller sizes, slower wing movements, and separate genus and species) is their large, menacing eyes. These are not the same eyes that you’ll find staring out at you when looking at an actual hummingbird. If their ruse is ever discovered by actual predators, they can sometimes use their large eyes to warn them away.
They Like What Hummingbirds Like
It is not surprising that these moths prefer to eat what hummingbirds eat. After all, they have quite similar calorie needs due to their similar expenditure of energy. You can find them sipping away at nectar in your garden. They tend to be particularly fond of salvia, verbenas, red valerian, cardinals, and butterfly bush. In fact, if you have these moths in your area, you may even see a few flitting about your very own hummingbird feeders. If you catch them feeding at twilight or during the early portion of night, they can also be found hovering over jasmine, primrose, and other night-blooming flowers.
True hummingbirds love nectar. However, they also supplement their nectar-rich diets with an ample variety of insects. Conversely, a hummingbird moth, irrespective of its species, will always thrive solely on nectar alone.
There Are Three Different Species Of These Moths
There are three species of hummingbird moths. Moreover, each of these moths has its own genus. These include White-lined Sphinx, Clearwing, and Hawkmoths. Each has its own distinctive look, and this look closely mirrors the hummingbirds of the region that each inhabits.
The Life Cycle And Larvae Of Hummingbird Moths
Much like all other moths, female hummingbird moths lay eggs. These eggs then hatch into larvae. It can take up to one full month for these eggs to reach full development. During the larval stage, the moths will go through a number of insar periods. During these times, they will feed frequently, routinely shed their skins, and undergo rapid phases of growth. For gardeners, their need to feed can make these insects quite a pest despite their colorful and eye-catching appearances. Female hummingbird moths are not hardwired to remain with their young, and this means that larvae must reach maturity on their own. As with many other insects, male hummingbird moths are typically a bit larger than females. Once mature, these moths can live for up to two full years.