Saturday, June 2, 2012

Surprise On-Deck

Last week I wrote about the astonishing sound we heard under the deck. (See "How Quiet?" in May archives) Last weekend something surprised us topside.

Saturday morning I had finished planting a planter of pink Verbenas. We were reading and relaxing on the deck in the late afternoon. A swift movement caught my eye. I looked up to the Hummingbird feeder to see if it was a male or a female hummer. It was not a bird. It was not at the feeder. It was a Hummingbird Moth, at the Verbena. Zipping up and down, left and right, in and out.

I rushed inside for my camera, hoping to get at least one shot from a distance. Well, this hairy creature did not leave its stash. The nectar must have been plentiful, and the Verbena's tubular structure fit the moth's amazing proboscis. Look how it bends into the blooms. I closed to about 30" with my 100mm macro.

(Click on photos to enlarge)

This guy was in hyper-motion! I could hear the faint buzzy-whirring of its wings. It never landed so I could examine its markings, but some of these details are discernible in the photos.

The following description is from Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Insects and Spiders

Wingspan 1 1/2- 2" (38-50mm). Wings initially plum-red to brownish-black, but scales drop off after 1st flight, leaving clear areas devoid of scales. Body spindle-shaped, mostly olive-green with plum-red bands across abdomen and rear tufts.

Their habitat is forest edges (our lawn is 90% edged by forest), meadows (a few acres to the SW), and flower gardens (perennial gardens surround our house).

Our annuals include: Cosmos, Petunia, Geranium, Salvia, Begonias, Impatiens, and Cleome. And now, the Verbena, which brings this plump little surprise, the Hummingbird Moth, to our deck.

This moth hovers over flowers in full sunlight, producing a buzz with its wings similar to, but softer than that of a Hummingbird. The caterpillar feeds on the foliage of the Honeysuckle family, which grows abundantly in our area.

Watch for them in your gardens. Plant some Verbena. Grab your camera.


  1. Hummingbird hawk moths are so hard to photograph but you've done well with these Richard - just aswell the 100mm macro was on the camera. We just have the smaller bee flys here just now but the hawk moths appear in the evenings during the hotter summer months. I've plenty of verbena planted if ever one should decide to nectar in my garden.

  2. Rosie:

    I use an older Field Guide that leaves out the word "Hawk" in the name. This was my preference.

    I like your wording; "to nectar in my garden". I never thought to use it as a verb. May I use it in a future Haiku? Only with your permission, of course.



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