Hummingbird Moth Caterpillar

Top Photo: Can you find the caterpillar amongst the leaves?

The literature states that hummingbird clearwings (Hemaris thysbe) lay their eggs on honeysuckle and viburnum, less frequently on a few other tree species. The moths have been documented laying eggs on viburnums here on campus and their caterpillars have been spotted on two different varieties of viburnum.

Laying eggs on viburnum.

The caterpillars reach a length of about 2 inches, a little less than half the size of some of the more familiar sphinx moth caterpillars like the tomato or tobacco hornworms. Their smaller size and excellent camouflage conceal them well.

Caterpillar hanging from viburnum leaf.

The adult moths visit garden flowers during daylight hours for their nectar and at first may be confused with hummingbirds, though a bit smaller. They don’t sit still for very long, zipping from one flower to the next. If they find a good nectar source with plenty of flowers in close proximity, you may be in for a treat watching them sample each flower in turn.

Another adult depositing eggs, one at a time.
Caterpillars reach approximately 2 inches.

Consider yourself fortunate on spotting either the adult or caterpillar hummingbird moth.

2 responses to Hummingbird Moth Caterpillar

  1. Nancy Ivy says:

    I saw a hummingbird moth this past week 4 times near dusk. I was watering a lot of petunias and thought it was a hummingbird until I saw the antennas. Four of my great grandkids got to see it too. It was tan with brown stripes. I live north of Kalispell, MT. I think my great grandson found a caterpillar yesterday. It was light green and very plump. Largest one I’ve ever seen! It was in our greenhouse. Can they do a lot of damage?

    • gregdodge says:

      In the encounters with the caterpillars here at the museum they seem to NOT do much damage to the plants since the eggs are laid singly. Though they may lay several on the same plant they’re not in large clusters like orange striped oakworms or catalpa sphinx moths, for example. However, if you’re growing the plants for your garden and personal viewing pleasure, you may disagree with that assessment.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.