Field of Science

Insect hummingbirds

A neighbor was waving her arms at something flying about the garden. A first glance it appeared to be a hummingbird, but was way too small (3.5-4 cm long) for our local ruby-troated hummers. It was a day-flying hawkmoth (Macroglossum) and they can hover, go backwards, and rotate on a axis just like hummingbirds. They are wonderful insects and pollinate lots of flowers, mostly those with long, thin corolla tubes because they have a proboscis as long as their body or longer. Hawkmoths tend to be active in the early AM or late afternoon/early evening (crepuscular), but this one is day-flying. Our local species has a greenish fuzzy abdomen (viewed from behind) with a black stripe, so they might be mimicking a bee for protection from birds, and in this case it faked out my neighbor too. Image borrowed from a birder blog.

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