What is that, flitting around the flowers in the garden? Is it a hummingbird?! No, it's a moth!More specifically, it is a moth of the genus Hemaris in the Sphingidae family in the order Lepidoptera, the butterflies and moths. There are three species in the genus Hemaris that are found in the state of New York: H. diffinis, H. thysbe, and H. gracilis. All of the species look similar to each other with a large, robust body covered in thick fur colored light olive green to dark gold with a black to burgundy stripe or completed tip and transparent wings. The way it hovers around flowers, seeking out nectar, is also characteristic.
Hemaris species are flower pollinators just like many species of bees. They can be seen demonstrating this behavior often in cultivated gardens throughout the summer, showing a preference for pink and purple flowers. On Cornell University's campus in Ithaca, New York, this moth would be able to find plenty of flowers in the Cornell Botanic Gardens. The caterpillar of these moths are pickier eaters. They feed on several species of honeysuckle, dogbane, and some members of the rose family. These include hawthorn, cherries, and plums. The Cornell University Insect Collection has all three species with an impressive amount of H. thysbe: 142 adult specimens!
In this video, the way the moth hovers at the opening of flowers can be clearly seen. Its proboscis, which is more than 0.75 inches long, is used to obtain the nectar hiding deep in the flower.