Sphinx Hummingbird Moth Dazzles at Night

The other evening I caught a glimpse of a sphinx moth darting from petunia to petunia in the patio garden.

John grabbed his camera and captured this wonderful shot of a white-lined sphinx moth enjoying some of the Wave petunias Ball Horticultural Company sent me earlier this season to trial in my garden.


I like the Wave PurpleĀ  Improved Spreading petunia and Petunia Shock Wave Coral Crush in a hanging basket as much as this sphinx moth does.

The white-lined sphinx moth is common to the Western part of the US. It’s a large moth that resembles a hummingbird during flight or while hovering above flowers in the garden. The moth’s wings beat so quickly it’s hard to tell what they really look like while they’re moving.

But this image shows the colorful pink, brown, and white patterns on its wings as it enjoys a midnight snack.

Even though sphinx moths are usually seen at night, you can sometimes catch a glimpse of them during the daylight hours. To see one in action like this was certainly a rare treat.


 

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Comments

I live in North Central Wisconsin, and just saw this exact bird/moth at my hanging basket!! I was so surprised-thought it was the smallest hummingbird I had even seen, but then it tried to drink from the hummingbird feeder, and couldn’t!!

Hi Mary Ann:

Thanks for letting me know you saw one of these moths in your Wisconsin yard. I also spot them at night hovering around the flowers on my honeysuckle vines.

We had 3 visitors feeding on the Wieglalia’s this weekend. My husband said it was the strangest hummingbird he has ever seen. I went and looked and said its an insect of some sort. Looks like a moth. I guess we were both right.

Sphinx moths do get confused with hummingbirds, but I think in this case only one of you two is right.

Thanks for your comment,
Jodi

I too confused this for a baby hummingbird. I have never heard of this moth, but have seen atleast two in the last couple of days. We are located in SanJoaquin Valley in Northern California.

Hi Michelle:

Thanks for stopping by. It’s still too cold around here to see any of these moths right now–you’re a lucky gardener!

–Jodi

I’m from Long Island NewYork and I just saw a hummingbird moth in my garden this morning!

Never knew there were such things as hummingbird moths until last night when I observed one buzzing about the petunias in planters on my deck here on New York’s Long Island. My visitor was easily as big as a full grown hummingbird, and had it not been for the huge iridescent red eyes and the fact it flew directly at the flashlight I shined on it, I’d have thought it was a very confused hummer!

Glad you were able to see a hummingbird moth–I love seeing them in my garden. They really like honeysuckle flowers, but I guess petunias are delicious, too.

Here’s to more moth spotting,
Jodi

Hi Jim…Long Island must be a popular vacation spot for hummingbird moths! Glad you got to see one.

Regards,
Jodi

We just saw one on our butterfly bush in Milwaukee WI

It stuck around a long time and we got a couple pics. It even came on our deck and didn’t seem afraid of us.

Hi Lari:

Thanks for your syphinx moth report from Milwaukee–it’s been fun hearing where these little guys are landing and when. The butterfly bush is popular around here, and I’ve seen some on the bee balm and petunias.

Over the weekend I spotted one enjoying the roses in a garden located about 2 hours south of Denver.

Regards,
Jodi

I had seen these once before when we were on vacation out in South Dakota. This is the first year we have seen them by us in South Central Wisconsin. The moths we have are enjoying the large white flowers on our hostas and they like my garden of zinnias. They are quite friendly, thus allowing me to get some beautiful pictures of them. Next planting season I will be sure to put in more butterfly bushes and petunias.
Sincerely,
Mari

Hi Mari:

Thanks for posting your recent sighting–this must be a very good year for Sphynx moths. I’ve seen more this season than ever before.

Glad to hear you got some good pictures, too. Those guys are hard to shoot!

Regards,
Jodi

I have been seeing apair of the sphinx moths in yard feeding on all my flowers. So awesome to see and they don’t shy away from me at all. Was painting my fence in the late afternoon and one even checked out the paint can, while I was holding it. Hope they return every year. Just beautiful .

I am located in south eastern Wisconsin.

I saw this very same moth last week one late afternoon going from one pastel impatient to the next. So fun to watch. I too thought it was a small hummingbird and didn’t seem to be afraid of me watching it.

Regards, Laurie
Dodge County, Wisconsin

Thanks for your report, Laurie! They sure make the garden come alive.

Regards,
Jodi

Hi Mary–how fun to get a close up view while you were painting!

Thanks for sharing,
Jodi

We live in Las Vegas and have what I’d guess is an “orange jasmine” tree (produces oranges rarely, blossoms jasmine flowers). Anyway, right at this moment we have over a half dozen speeding around the tree competing with the bees. We’ve seen them early morning, mid day, and right now at dusk. Yesterday evening my husband saw 10-12 of them.

I just put “western hummingbird moth” into the search engine (not expecting to get any results) and voila! here you are talking about them (even if it was a year ago). Thanks for the validation. They do indeed look like baby hummingbirds!

I found a hummingbird moth in my garden at night, I have never seen one in my zone. HONDURAS.

Spotted one in Jasper Alberta Canada July 7th, 2016.
Didn’t know anything about these critters.

Hi Jeff:

Thanks for reporting your Sphinx moth sighting! I hope you’ll get many more visitors this summer.

Regards,
Jodi

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