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With their long beaks, rapidly beating wings and ability to effortlessly hover, hummingbirds are distinctive creatures. However, several bugs exist that look remarkably like hummingbirds and are easy to mistake for them at first glance. All these bugs are moths belonging to the Sphingidae -- or hawk moth -- family.
Hemaris thysbe is colloquially known as the hummingbird or hummingbird clearwing moth. This moth has a wingspan of between roughly 1.5 and 2.15 inches, a body that can range in color from olive to red-brown and translucent wings. He hovers in front of flowers, sucking nectar from them with his long proboscis, which is why he's often mistaken for a small hummingbird. The species can be found across North America, from Alaska in the north to Florida and Texas in the south.
Hyles lineata is more commonly called the white-lined sphinx moth. With a wingspan of between 2.5 and 3.5 inches, his large size partially explains why he's commonly confused for a hummingbird. The species also routinely hovers to extract nectar from flowers. This species is olive brown in color, with distinctive white stripes or lines across his wings and thorax. His geographical range extends across much of the United States, southern Canada, Central America, the West Indies, and parts of Eurasia and Africa.
Snowberry clearwing is the common name of Hemaris diffinis. This small hawk moth can cause some confusion to those who spot him because, while he moves, hovers and consumes nectar much like a hummingbird, his markings resemble those of a bumble bee. He can be found in the United States from Maine to Florida, east of the continental divide. This species generally resides anywhere with plenty of flowers to feed from, and can be spotted in a range of habitats, including woodlands, prairies and gardens.
Macroglossum stellatarum is more frequently referred to as the hummingbird hawk moth. He has a wingspan of roughly 2 to 2.25 inches and a black and white spotted or checkered body. He beats his wings so quickly when hovering in front of flowers that they emit an audible humming sound. This moth can be found across the United Kingdom, as well as in southern parts of Europe and northern parts of Africa.
- Missouri Department of Conservation: Hummingbird Imposters
- Iowa State University: Hummingbird Moths
- Animal Diversity Web: Hemaris Thysbe
- Missouri Department of Conservation: White-Lined Sphinx Moth
- Butterflies and Moths of North America: White-Lined Sphinx
- Missouri Department of Conservation: Snowberry Clearwing
- Ninnescah Life: Snowberry Clearwing
- RSPB: Hummingbird Hawk Moth
- Butterfly Conservation: Humming-Bird Hawk-Moth