Friday, November 7, 2008

The Sphinx Moth

Sphinx Photo by L. Todd Spencer / The Virginia-Pilot

Check out this cool sphinx! These moths often fool me into thinking I'm looking at some kind of weird hummingbird at first, when actually it's just a huge moth. Their arrival in fall is always a pleasant surprise for those lucky enough to spot them. Suddenly they arrive, floating around flowers, often in numbers, and their graceful hummingbird like behavior never ceases to amaze.

Sphinx moths aren't difficult to spot, but many people miss seeing them see them because they usually don't appear until dusk. They are often drawn by bright fragrant flowers - their favorite being moon flowers and ginger lilies. These two varieties normally bloom into late fall, when the moths typically show up.

The sight of these big pink, white and brown moths often causes a double take. They aren't what they seem to be. They hover with whirring wings, feeding on nectar deep in a flower's center, behaving like a hummingbird. Instead of lapping up nectar with a long tongue the way hummingbirds do, sphinx moths use a proboscis, about as long as their bodies, that's coiled up under their heads. They unroll the slim feeding tube right into the center of a long-necked flower and suck away as if the tube were a straw. Check out the short video below:

Sphinx moths come from the hornworm caterpillar.

Click here to view a large variety of sphinx moths.


1 comment:

Mary said...

Hi Alan,

That moth surely does have a resemblance to the hummingbird! I've never seen that type here but I've seen many Nessus sphinx this summer.

Thanks for the good video!