Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Snowberry Clearwing

Not too long ago, I lucked into a good photo op with a semi-cooperative Hummingbird Clearwing moth, Hemaris thysbe, above. I wrote about the animal and that experience HERE.
The hummingbird moth godz have been smiling on me, as last Saturday our group lucked into the other common species in the genus Hemaris, the Snowberry Clearwing, H. diffinis. I was co-leading an expedition into the fascinating Castalia Quarry Metropark in Erie County with Rick Nirschl, when the animal above darted in and began to work a patch of Wild Bergamot, Monarda fistulosa. Needless to say, the group was enchanted with the performance of the little speedster, which along with the other clearwing are occasionally referred to as "hummingbird mimics".

But why would they imitate hummingbirds? To say they are a mimic is to imply that for some reason evolutionary processes have decreed that these moths gain some sort of survival advantage by resembling hummingbirds. I'm not sure this is a case of mimicry; I rather think it is convergent evolution at work. Flowers without "landing pads" such as the big flat petals of coneflowers, like Monardas, are out to attract moths and hummingbirds that are capable of helicoptering in front of the blossom and don't require a landing pad. As hummingbirds and clearwing moths are largely after the same fare, they have evolved similar adaptations and appearances.

In any event, clearwing moths are surefire crowd-pleasers, and you'll want some in your yard I'm sure. To get them, plant Dwarf Honeysuckle, Diervilla lonicera, native (always native!) viburnums, Snowberry, Symphoricarpos albus var. albus, or Coralberry, Symphoricarpos orbiculatus. With luck, you'll one day find the marvelous bag of goo above noshing on your plants, which will (if all goes well!) turn into a Snowberry Clearwing.

Should you be in or around Dayton this Saturday, stop into the Midwest Native Plant Conference between 9 am and 5 pm, when vendors will be hawking native plants, including, probably, some of the plants that I mentioned above.

1 comment:

Amy G. said...

It makes sense, convergent evolution versus mimicry. They work our Monarda side by side, and in the daylight, afternoon and evening. No advantage to mimic a hummingbird.