Subject: Small blue insect
Location: Memphis, TN
September 10, 2014 12:15 pm
I saw this fellow flying in my yard this morning. I don’t recall ever seeing one before. I reckon it was about an inch long. Any idea what this is?
Signature: William Cooper
Even though your insect has black wings, it is a member of the moth family Sesiidae, commonly called the Clearwings. The members of the family Sesiidae are wasp mimics, and even though they cannot sting, they derive protection from their protective coloration and markings. We first found a similar looking individual on the Moth Photographers Group that is identified as Alcathoe caudata, the Clematis Clearwing Moth, and upon checking Bugguide we found a good match with Alcathoe carolinensis which is called the Clematis Borer. The moths in the family Sesiidae have larvae that bore in woody plants, sometimes causing considerable damage, though the Clematis Borer might be unjustly tagged with an unfitting common name based on this BugGuide statement: “Although other Alcathoe use species of Clematis (Ranunculaceae) as larval hosts, earlier reports of carolinensis on this host have been called into question and no Clematis species were found within 160 meters of the Tennessee collection site.” No larval host and no common name are included in the Butterflies and Moths of North America site.
That makes sense — the photo that I sent actually shows the insect on a clematis leaf!
Thanks!! I enjoy the site.