The other night I was outside helping grill around dusk. Right next to the grill, I have planters with geraniums, petunias and coleus.
Flitting around the petunias that night was this hummingbird-dragonfly-bug-like thing. Its wings were beating so fast, I really couldn’t get a handle on what it was. All I could really tell was that it was not a hummingbird, but was definitely getting nectar from the petunias, checking out the other flowers, distinctively patterned and very pretty. I meant to try to look it up, but I really didn’t know what I was looking for.
Then, oddly enough, the next morning my radio alarm comes on and there is an interview with a local garden specialists about the recent explosion of something called a White Line Sphinx Moth (Hyles lineata). That was it, made my ID pretty easy. For some reason that I haven’t been able to figure out, they’ve been spotted in higher numbers lately in the Midwest, including Chicago.
White Line Sphinx Moths, also known as Hawk Moths, are fairly large moths and behave much like a hummingbird, flitting about, hovering above flowers and using its very long tongue (or proboscis) to reach into the flower and drink the nectar. The caterpillar phase of this moth is also unusually large (3 inches or more) and has a distinct hornlike appendage. They look similar to the very destructive tomato hornworm, but are not as much of a garden pest.
I hope they stick around a bit, it was fun to watch.