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by Valerie

June, 2017

Snowberry Clearwing

Many diurnal moths need a disguise to help them avoid predators, and the lovely snowberry clearwing (Hemaris diffinis) has a good one. Although it looks like the biggest bumble bee you've ever seen, this insect is actually a sphinx moth. Unlike bees, which have nasty tasting venom and a stinger, moths have little protection against birds that forage during the day. Most moths avoid those hunters by flying at night, but a small number have other strategies. The costume of the snowberry clearwing is quite convincing, especially when the moth is flying. Its namesake wings have sections that lack scales and so resemble the clear wings of a bee. Along with the yellow and black markings, the masquerade is definitely effective.

The larval stage of this moth is a hornworm: a caterpillar with a little spiky tail. Its host plant is honeysuckle, and in our area it prefers Coral Honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens). Although the caterpillars can reach over 2 inches in length, they are not easy to find. Very occasionally a purple-colored morph occurs, but most are the same green color as the foliage on their host plant.

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