Hummingbird Moth (by stroan)
Someone requested some info on the Hummingbird Moth! I promised it would be out yesterday… but stuff happened. Nonetheless, here it is! Some of my older followers might remember the “Moth of the Week” feature that died because I am a lazy butt. I think I’ll bring back something similar, but on a random schedule. It’s going to be called Macro Focus.
Macro Focus: Hummingbird Moth
The Hummingbird Moth(s) is one of the cutest and most popular of the moths. Scientifically named in the genus Hemaris and hailing from the order Sphingidae, these creatures are both pleasant to look at and helpful. They can be found through the eastern and northern parts of North America, extending as far up as Alaska!
Note that there are many moths in this genus that are commonly referred to as “Hummingbird,” often followed by “Clearwing” based on their appearance.
These moths are active in June and July. Caterpillars can either be helpful or pesky, depending on which plant they eat—viburnum plants including delicious blueberries to undesirable thistles. They pupate in the ground, and emerge in the next summer where they mate. They drink nectar, quickly darting from flower to flower like their name suggests. They are helpful pollinators to us. Females release pheromones from a scent gland to attract males. They fly during the day.
But wait, there’s more!
There is another moth commonly referred to as “Hummingbird,” but only in the Americas. This is the Hummingbird Hawk Moth, Macroglossum stellatarum. They are often called “Bee Moths” in Europe. This creature is also a member of the Sphingidae, but is considerably bigger than its cousins with a wingspan of about 1.6-1.8 inches, as opposed to the Hummingbird Clearwings which have a wingspan of about half an inch. These moths can be found throughout the Old World from Europe to Japan year round, particularly in warmer climates.
They have two to four broods a year. Larvae prefer to eat bedstraws and madders as host plants, feeding exclusively on top of them. Depending on how warm the climate is, they can reach adulthood in as little as twenty days. They also pupate underground or in leaf litter.
Adults have similar behavior to the Clearwings. They fly rapidly, drink nectar from orchids, and make a buzzing noise. Interestingly enough, the true hummingbirds and these moths evolved side by side in a remarkable case of convergent evolution. They fill similar niches in their habitat, but partition resources well, and can both be food for predators. These moths have a tuft of hair (called setae) at the ends of the abdomens, which they use to help disperse mating pheromones.
Hummingbird Hawk Moths are also remarkable in that they can remain active in high, their internal body temperatures as high as 45 degrees C, or 113 degrees F. This is about the highest strain any insect’s muscle system can take, excluding maybe honeybees whose internal temperatures can reach 130 degrees F.
Moth of the Week: Biston Perclarus
Meet Biston perclarus. This cute and colorful moth comes from the family Geometridae. Its genus name is derived from the Greek god Biston, son of Ares and Calliope and father of a warlike cult that worshiped Ares. This particular cult was known for tattooing themselves around the eyes, much like this moth’s striking markings! It also shares its genus with the famous Peppered Moth, B. betularia.
B. perclarus is mainly found in China and other parts of Southeast Asia. Like many Geometrids, it tends to be most active in the late day and early evening. Caterpillars are called loopers or inchworms, and they get their name from the way they arch their bodies when they move. They prefer to eat plants such as birch and willow. There is typically one brood per year. The caterpillars mimic twigs, getting darker as they mature.
Adults emerge quickly, after about only ten days. Males fly every night to find a mate, but the females only fly once to find a safe place so they can release their pheromones. They are relatively large for moths, with around a one-inch wingspan.
Hey, Sheep Moth anon, this one’s for you! I’m trying to get back into MoTW. From now on, expect a new post every Friday. I’m sorry I’ve been neglecting it so much. u_u
Moth of the Week: Sheep Moth, Hemileuca eglanterina
Meet the Sheep Moth, Hemileuca eglanterina. Coming from the family Saturniidae, this brightly colored and adorable moth is a delight to find. Sheep Moths enjoy a wide range in western North America, extending from the Rocky Mountains to sometimes to Pacific Coast. Also known as Western Sheep Moths, Common Sheep Moth,s and Elegant Sheep Moths, these insects get their name from being commonly seen in their preferred habitat, mountains and valley fields, where shepherds often took their flock to graze.
Sheep Moths breed and fly in the summer, and there is one brood per year. Caterpillars emerge after about two weeks, and are gregarious, eating host plants such as Ceanothus, Salix, and Betula. It is thought that pupation occurs after about four instars (molts), although this is not confirmed. As with most Saturniids, they can be fickle, emerging from their silken cocoons anywhere from two weeks to several months. It can also be hypothesized that they overwinter, although I did not find any information relating to this.
The adult moth is relatively small, with a wingspan of about 60 mm. Females attract males by releasing pheromones. They are very fast fliers, but they are quite lazy and not prone to take off due to the fact that they don’t have mouth parts, so they have to rely on body fat from their caterpillar days to keep them energized and able to complete their life cycle. Unlike most moths, they are diurnal. Their markings and coloring can vary.
MotW is back with a vengeance and an unusual new guest! Get ready for…
Moth of the Week: Spanish Moth, Xanthopastis timais
Meet the Spanish Moth, Xanthopastis timais. Coming from the family Noctuidae, this tiny (around 4.5 cm wingspan) but striking moth is anything but drab! Despite its name, this moth actually originates from Suriname. So adaptive is it, though, that now it can be found from Argentina to even New York and Arkansas! They are very common to find in Florida.
These moths are unique in that in the warmer regions of their range, they can be found year round, usually from January to June, and September to December at their population peaks. Caterpillars have variable looks in South America, however, in the United States, they have a fairly uniform appearance. Sometimes called “convict worms” due to their black and white striped coloration, caterpillars feed gregariously upon the leaves, bulbs, and rhizomes of plants such as lilies. They are sometimes considered pests, however, they can be controlled with the introduction of certain bacteria. Like many moths, they prefer to pupate in the ground and in leaf litter, where, after any time from around two to four weeks, they emerge as adults. Adults have proboscises, so it can be inferred that they feed upon nectar.
Spanish Moths are actually quite good for rearing. Although they might be hard to procure if you don’t live in Florida, caterpillars can eat plants as simple to find as iceberg lettuce! The adult moth is also quite pretty, with its mantle of black “fluff” (actually scales) and speckled pink wings.
Tired of pink and yellow moths yet?
Good news, because this MotW is…
Moth of the Week: Chickweed Geometer, Haematopis grataria
Meet the Chickweed Geometer, Haematopis grataria. Coming from the family Geometridae, these tiny moths are a delight to find! Unlike many moths, the Chickweed Geometer flies during the day, making it far more accessible to the public. These creatures might look like butterflies fanning out their wings in the sun at first glance, however, due to the shape of their antennae, they are clearly moths. The Chickweed Geometer flies from May to October, although most specimens can be found in August. They live throughout the United States and some parts of Canada, preferring the cover of plains and meadows. There can be up to two broods per year, and their color varies from dull pink patches to blood red ones, hence the meaning of their genus name, Haematopis, which derives from the Greek haima/haimatinos, meaning blood. These moths are also unique in that they are the only members of this genus.
The Chickweed Geometer’s life is a fast-paced one. Larvae emerge after about only one week, and commence eating their host plants immediately, which include chickweed, clover, and other low-growing vegetation. Like all Geometer moths, the caterpillars are more commonly known as inchworms or loopers due to the unique way they arch their backs when they move. The inchworms go through five instars, and in a matter of about thirty days, are ready to pupate. After about another two weeks, the imago (adult) emerges. The adult does not eat, and larvae are not considered pests—in fact, they’re beloved animals because they clear peoples’ lawns of pesky chickweed.
Although the moth is little (it has a wingspan of about 25 mm), it stands out when it’s seen fluttering through the meadows in broad daylight. They can be terribly hard to catch or even look at, though—they’re very skittish creatures. Still, they’re neat little animals that make them favorites of collectors everywhere.
The people have spoken, and the next MotW is…
Moth of the Week: Oakworm Moth, Anisota stigma & Anisota Virginiensis
Double species feature! Meet Anisota stigma and Anisota Virginiensis, two Oakworm Moth species! Coming from the family Saturniidae, these appealing moths delight all across North America.
With a wingspan of 4-7 cm, A. stigma is highly striking, especially due to its unique purple and reddish brown coloring. Oakworm Moths live anywhere from southern Canada to Texas. Although not endangered, they might be hard to find in some habitats, as they prefer to live in deciduous forests. Oakworms are unique in that they only have one brood a year, and that they take place during different months depending on where they live. In the north, the caterpillars are mostly active during June-July, and August-September in the south, most notably in Texas. Females lay many eggs, and the larvae emerge after about two weeks. Caterpillars are social, and for their earliest instars feed together on their host plants, oak trees (family Quercus). They are not considered pests.
As silk moths, they do spin cocoons, but prefer to pupate in the soil as opposed to many Saturniid species. They overwinter, and emerge during breeding season, as highlighted above. Adults do not eat.
A. virginiensis shares the same habits, like most other species of Oakworm. I included it because I personally find it more striking than A. stigma. Either way, Anisota moths are neat creatures—kind of like carrots with wings!