I’m still searching for the Spicebush Swallowtail. And I still haven’t gotten a confirmed photo of what is said to be common to my area. As I was driving though the Kanawha Falls area I noticed a large butterfly bush near the side of the road. I brought my big blue truck to a screeching halt in the gravel and grabbed my trusty DMC-FZ30 Panasonic Lumix. I searched the butterfly bush for several minutes. The bush seemed to be abandoned at first. But then something large emerged from the other side of the bloom. It moved like a hummingbird but had the colors of a large bumblebee. It had the tail of a lobster and extended a long proboscis like a butterfly. It hovered in place sipping netar by probing each little bloom individually. It’s not butterfly at all. It’s a moth.
The Clearwing Hawk Moth is the day walker if the moth community. It’sresemblance to a bumblebee gives it a certain level of protection from most predators. They come in beautiful colors and a little farther North is a variety with bright red trim on its wings.
A refreshed edit of an earlier published image shows the Snowberry Clearwing On Multiflora Rose.
The variety that I’m the most familiar with is the Snowberry Clearwing Moth. Although they get their name from hosting on wild snowberry they also host on Dogbane (also known as Indian Hemp) and they can be a pest on fruit trees. In the adjoining image the Snowberry Clearwing is resting on a Multiflora Rose.
They’re mostly active during the day which makes me wonder how they navigate. Moths gather around your porch light because they navigate by keeping their bodies at a certain angle to the moon. When they encounter an artificial light they assume that the brightest light is the moon and adjust accordingly. But because the sun is so bright and not polarized like the moon they must have a way to compensate. But they do continue activity into the night. I have encountered them while walking with a flashlight and the greenish yellow eye shine is a little confusing the first time that you see it. The first time that you see one in daylight your first thought is “Whoa! Big Bee” and is sometimes accompany buy high-pitch squealing.
A quick Google search shows that the USDA considers the Snowberry Clearwing Moth a pollinator. When you notice how thick it’s fur is then it makes perfect sense that some pollen will be transferred as it hovers around from bloom to bloom.
One of strangest names for these moths is “Flying Lobster” and that name seems to come from my home state of West Virginia. The only photo that I have that shows the fan shaped tail that this class of moths share is a variety with a bright yellow body and brown bands that resembles a Yellowjacket wasp more than a bumblebee.
This Clearwing Hornet Moth looks like a Yellowjacket but has the same “lobster tail” that is not visible in the other photos.
Once again Google came to my rescue and gave the ID on this Clearwing Moth. This one is even capable of mimicking the hornet’s flight patterns. Something that I can verify myself because when I took the picture with my cellphone the insect lifted off and charged me pulling away at the last minute just like a hornet would. It’s bluff works. My reflexes took over and I ducked to avoid being stung.
I might have missed out on the Spicebush Swallowtail again but the excursion will go in the win column since I got a few shots of one of Appalachia’s interesting pollenators.
The big blue truck is still idling with the door open as the moth in the first image hovers over to a new plant. It’s time to tuck the camera back into its holster and leave the gravel in favor of the road home.
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