Bumblebee Moth

by Daisy

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When we first saw this huge moth feeding on the butterfly bush, my first thought was, “It looks like a cross between a hummingbird and a bumblebee!”

It’s actually a Bumblebee Moth (Hemaris diffinis), also known as a Snowberry Clearwing Moth, to the best of my bug-identifying ability. The wings, which are partially clear, can barely be seen in this photo because they are moving too fast for my camera setting.

What makes it interesting to me is what is known as its Batesian mimicry. This is a phenomenon in which an organism has developed to mimic the appearance of another in order to take advantage of the mimicked creature’s cred, so to speak; in this case, that of a bumblebee. In other words, since Bumblebee Moths look like bumblebees, predators may avoid them, assuming they can sting like bumblebees.


Larvae of the Bumblebee Moth feed on honeysuckle, snowberry bushes (hence the alternative name), and dogbane. They are found mostly east of the US Continental Divide. There’s a similar species in the California area, Hemaris thetis.

Every time I find something new in my garden, and that could be every day if I looked carefully enough, I’m amazed and impressed by the variety and complexity of life in such a small, suburban place. The tenacity of these creatures and their phenomenal ability to find the very plants they need to sustain themselves is unbelievable.

Hats off to you, Bumblebee Moth.


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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Gloria August 3, 2014 at 1:31 pm

I live in Ontario, Canada and this year we had several of this exact same moth visit our flowerbeds. It was exciting to see. I had to look it up as we’d never seen it before. We’ve also been getting a variety of coloured dragonflies visiting. They’ve been absent for many years due to local farm practises but have finally found my organic gardens.

Mary August 5, 2014 at 7:21 pm

In Georgia, we call these humming bird moths and they provide us with those monster horned tomato worms that can decimate a tomato plant in a day. Not too happy about that.

Daisy August 5, 2014 at 8:23 pm

Mary–Yes, the thing I like about bumblebee moths is they munch down on my honeysuckle instead of my tomatoes; I have plenty of honeysuckle to spare (and frankly they can have it)!

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