Snowberry Clearwing or Bumblebee Moth
(Order Lepidoptera; Family Sphingidae)
Hemaris diffinis (Photo by Zachary Quick)
(Kansas: Sedgwick County. WSU Ninnescah Reserve, 5.1 mi NW Viola, 37°32'18"N, -97° 40'45"W. In a prairie. Septermber 8, 2011.)
Adult Diagnosis: This is a type of bumblebee hawk moth with a wing span of roughly 4.4 to 5.1 cm (1.75 to 2 inches). The majority of the wing membrane is clear and lacking scales, but this section is enclosed within a black border. Greenish-yellow hair is found on most of the body, with black hair at the tip and midsection of the abdomen. This gives Hemaris the appearance of a bumblebee.
Mating male and female Hemaris diffinis (copyright by Vespula Vulgaris: http://bugguide.net/node/view/310414/bgpage).
Adult Natural History: As is true for all members of Lepidoptera, Hemaris is equipped with siphoning mouthparts which are used to consume the nectar within flowers. A characteristic adaptation of this species is a remarkable resemblance to bumblebees. This is an example of Batesian mimicry, in which an organism reduces predation by mimicking the phenotype of another organism that is avoided by predators. In this case, predators associate the coloration pattern with a painful bee sting.
Pollination of several plant species is achieved as adults forage for nectar. Pollen adheres to the numerous hairs covering their body. Transfer of this pollen occurs as Hemaris travels between flowers within a community of plants, continuing the search for nectar.
The developmental life cycle includes two generations of larvae born annually. The larvae, often referred to as hornworms, undergo metamorphosis during the winter. They pupate in the soil, forming a sturdy cocoon in the leaf litter. In May and June mature adults leave their cocoons and deposit eggs on a host plant (host plants include dogbane, snowberry, honeysuckle, and dwarf bush honeysuckle). After approximately one week of growth, larvae hatch and for the next month feed on the host plant. After this period of growth, pupation is initiated, once again within the soil. After several weeks of development, adults exit their cocoons and lay another generation of eggs.
Phenotypic similarity between Hemaris diffinis (Left) (Copyright by Barbara Strnadova: http://www.godofinsects.com/index.php/museum/butterflies-and-moths/moths/snowberry-clearwing-moth-hemaris-diffinis/) and Bombus spp. (Right) (Copyright by Barbara Strnadova: http://www.godofinsects.com/index.php/museum/bees-wasps-and-ants/bumblebees-bombus-spp/).
Distribution: The species distribution across the United States ranges from Maine to Florida in localities east of the Continental Divide. Populations in California and other regions west of the Continental Divide, as shown in the following map, were once considered to be H. diffinis, but have recently been categorized as a separate species, H. thetis. Within Kansas, current territories include regions in the central and eastern parts of the state.
Hemaris diffinis North American distribution (from: http://mothphotographersgroup.msstate.edu/species.php?hodges=7855).
Habitat: Open areas with flowering plants present are ideal locations to observe Hemaris. Common habitat examples include gardens, along streams, and prairies.
Hemaris diffinis feeding on nectar (from: http://www.silkmoths.bizland.com/hdiffinis.htm).
Diet: Adult Hemaris feed on nectar from flowers such as lantana, dwarf bush honeysuckle, thistles, and milkweed. Larvae utilize plants such as dogbane, snowberry, honeysuckle, and dwarf bush honeysuckle as sources of food.
Hemaris diffinis larvae (from: http://www.silkmoths.bizland.com/hdiffinis.htm).
Conservation Status: Stable
The Clear Wing Humming Bird Moth
Encyclopedia of Life: http://eol.org/pages/508166/overview
University of Arkansas- Snowberry Clearwing: http://www.uark.edu/ua/arthmuse/hemdif.html
US Forest Service- Hummingbird Moth: http://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/pollinators/pollinator-of-the-month/hummingbird_moth.shtml
Butterflies and Moths of North America. 2011. Attributes of Hemaris diffinis. http://www.butterfliesandmoths.org/species/Hemaris-diffinis (accessed 13 Nov. 2011).
The Lepidopterists’ Society. 2011. General Terms for Lepidopterists. http://www.lepsoc.org/other_terms.php (accessed 13 Nov. 2011).
MBG Integrated Pest Management. 2011. Hornworms. http://www.mobot.org/gardeninghelp/plantfinder/ipm.asp?code=62 (accessed 13 Nov. 2011).
Salsbury, Glenn A. and Stephan C. White. 2000. Insects in Kansas, 3rd Edition. Kansas Department of Agriculture, Topeka, KS.
Schmidt, B. C. 2009. “HEMARIS THETIS (BOISDUVAL, 1855) (SPHINGIDAE) IS A DISTINCT SPECIES.” Journal of the Lepidopterists Society 63(2): 100-109.
Submitted By: Zachary Quick, November 2011