Discovering the Bee Hawk Moth: A Deep Dive into Its Hidden Facts

The bee hawk moth, also known as the hummingbird moth, is a fascinating and unique creature. These moths are often mistaken for hummingbirds due to their ability to hover and their similar appearance. There are four species of hummingbird moths in North America, including the widespread Snowberry Clearwing (Hemaris diffinis) and the Hummingbird Clearwing (Hemaris thysbe) source.

These moths display several captivating features, such as a long proboscis used to feed on nectar from flowers, and large, heavy bodies with pointed abdomens source. They’re also known for their vibrant colors, which can cause further confusion with the similarly colored hummingbirds. Some key characteristics of bee hawk moths include:

  • Large, heavy-bodied, with long pointed abdomens
  • Long, pointed forewings
  • Hovering ability while feeding on nectar
  • Vibrant colors

Overall, the bee hawk moth is an intriguing pollinator that plays an essential role in ecosystems by contributing to the reproduction of flowering plants. Their unique abilities and colorful appearance make them a captivating subject to observe and learn about.

Bee Hawk Moth Overview

Species

There are four species of bee hawk moths in North America, including the Snowberry Clearwing (Hemaris diffinis) and the Hummingbird Clearwing (Hemaris thysbe). These two species are widespread throughout the continent, with the Snowberry Clearwing being more abundant in the western regions1.

Size

Bee hawk moths are relatively small compared to other moth species. They are usually around 1.5 inches in length2.

Wingspan

The wingspan of bee hawk moths varies between species. For example, the Hummingbird Clearwing has a wingspan of about 1.5 inches2.

Conservation Status

There is currently no specific information on the conservation status of bee hawk moths.

Physical Characteristics

Wings

Bee Hawk Moths have unique wings that distinguish them from other moths. They are:

  • Long and pointed
  • Partially clear in some species

For example, the Hummingbird Clearwing (Hemaris thysbe) is a species with partially clear wings.

Abdomen

The abdomen of Bee Hawk Moths is:

  • Long
  • Pointed

This shape allows them to hover near flowers while feeding.

Antenna

Antennae of Bee Hawk Moths:

  • Gradually widen towards the middle
  • Then narrow again towards the tip

This distinctive shape sets them apart from other moths.

Proboscis

Bee Hawk Moths are equipped with:

  • An extended proboscis
  • Used for feeding on nectar

This long “tongue” enables them to hover near flowers and sip nectar efficiently.

Coloration

Color variations in Bee Hawk Moths include:

  • Brown
  • Green
  • Black
  • Reddish-brown bands
Feature Example Species Color
Abdomen Sphinx Moths (Hawk Moths) Brown
Wings Hummingbird Clearwing Green
Reddish-brown bands Hemaris thysbe Reddish-brown

These color variations allow them to blend in with their surroundings.

Lifecycle and Behavior

Caterpillar

The caterpillar stage of the Bee Hawk-Moth is characterized by its vibrant colors and horn-like tail. These caterpillars are known to feed primarily on plants like honeysuckle and willowherb.

  • Vibrant colors
  • Horn-like tail
  • Feeds on honeysuckle and willowherb

Pupa

When the caterpillars reach maturity, they fall to the ground and pupate in leaf litter or soil. At this stage, they’re called pupae, and they’ll eventually metamorphose into adult moths.

  • Pupates in leaf litter or soil
  • Metamorphoses into adult moths

Adult

Adult Bee Hawk-Moths are powerful fliers, hovering near flowers to feed on nectar using their long proboscis. Notable features of these moths include:

  • Long, pointed wings
  • Long proboscis
  • Hovering flight

Reproduction

Bee Hawk-Moths reproduce by laying a large number of eggs on the leaves of host plants. The eggs hatch into larvae, which grow into caterpillars before pupating and transforming into adults.

  • Lays eggs on host plant leaves
  • Hatches into larvae
  • Ultimate transformation into adults

Comparison Table: Bee Hawk-Moth Stages

Lifecycle Stage Features Example
Caterpillar Vibrant colors, horn-like tail Feeds on honeysuckle plants
Pupa Pupates in leaf litter/soil Metamorphoses into adults
Adult Long, pointed wings, hovering flight Nectar feeding near flowers

Feeding Habits and Plants

Nectar

Bee Hawk Moths, also known as Hummingbird Moths, have feeding habits similar to hummingbirds. They primarily feed on nectar from various flowers using their long proboscis. Their diet includes nectar from flowers like:

  • Honeysuckle
  • Snowberry
  • Phlox
  • Lonicera

Flowers

The flowers mentioned above provide nectar for these moths. Let’s briefly discuss some of them:

  • Honeysuckle (Lonicera): A fragrant, tubular flower that attracts various pollinators, including Bee Hawk Moths. Honeysuckles can be found in gardens and woods across North America.
  • Snowberry (Symphoricarpos): A small, white-berried shrub that provides nectar for Bee Hawk Moths and other pollinators. Snowberries are usually found in areas with well-drained soils.
  • Phlox (Phlox spp.): Colorful flowers with sweet scents that draw pollinators like Bee Hawk Moths. Phlox typically blooms in the spring and summer, providing nectar for pollinators throughout the season.

Pollination

Bee Hawk Moths are beneficial pollinators and have a role in plant reproduction. When these moths feed on the nectar, they inadvertently transfer pollen between flowers, leading to the fertilization of plant seeds. This process helps plants to grow and spread, contributing to the ecosystem’s overall health.

Pollinator Main Food Source Pollinated Plants
Bee Hawk Moths Nectar Honeysuckle, Snowberry, Phlox, Lonicera
  • Features: Long proboscis, fast flight, hovering ability
  • Characteristics: Nocturnal, heavy-bodied, long-pointed abdomen

While feeding on nectar, some benefits and drawbacks arise for these moths:

Pros:

  • Sustains their energy needs
  • Contributes to plant reproduction
  • Maintains ecosystem health

Cons:

  • May face competition with other pollinators
  • Nectar can be limited during certain seasons

Habitat and Distribution

North America

Bee hawk moths (Sphingidae) are found in various habitats across North America, including woodlands and gardens. They are particularly common in eastern United States. Some examples of bee hawk moths found in North America are the Hummingbird Clearwing and the Snowberry Clearwing.

Europe

In Europe, bee hawk moths are widely distributed but vary in their habitat preferences. Woodland habitats are key for some species, like the Broad-bordered Bee Hawk-moth.

Asia

The Asian continent is home to various bee hawk moth species. Some examples include the Oriental Bee Hawk Moth in Japan and the Oleander Hawk Moth found in tropical regions.

Australia

In Australia, bee hawk moths are less diverse. One notable species is the Australian Hornworm, which inhabits coastal woodlands and mangroves.

Comparison Table – Bee Hawk Moth Habitat and Distribution

Continent Habitat Examples Species Examples
North America Woodlands, gardens Hummingbird Clearwing, Snowberry Clearwing
Europe Woodlands Broad-bordered Bee Hawk-moth
Asia Tropical regions, coastal areas Oriental Bee Hawk Moth, Oleander Hawk Moth
Australia Coastal woodlands, mangroves Australian Hornworm

Notable Species

Broad-Bordered Bee Hawk Moth

The Broad-bordered Bee Hawk Moth (Hemaris fuciformis) is a fascinating species known for its bee-like appearance and hovering behavior near flowers. Some key features include:

  • Clear wings with a broad brown border
  • Furry body with white and yellow bands
  • Long proboscis for feeding on nectar

This moth can be found in gardens, woodland clearings, and grasslands across Europe.

Narrow-Bordered Bee Hawk Moth

The Narrow-bordered Bee Hawk Moth (Hemaris tityus) is another bee-mimicking species. Key differences compared to the Broad-bordered Bee Hawk Moth include:

  • Narrower dark brown wing borders
  • More pronounced yellow bands on the body
  • Often associated with moorlands, heathlands, and fen meadows

This species is found throughout parts of Europe and Asia.

Comparison Table:

Feature Broad-Bordered Bee Hawk Moth Narrow-Bordered Bee Hawk Moth
Wing border width Broad Narrow
Body color bands White and yellow More pronounced yellow
Habitat Gardens, woodlands, grasslands Moorlands, heathlands, fen meadows

Hummingbird Moth

The Hummingbird Moth (Hemaris thysbe) resembles a hummingbird due to its hovering behavior and body shape. Some features of this species are:

  • Plump body with reddish-brown colors
  • Fan-like tail
  • Clear patches on wings, making it a clearwing moth

These moths are native to North America and are active during daylight hours.

Snowberry Clearwing Moth

The Snowberry Clearwing Moth (Hemaris diffinis) is another clearwing moth species with a hummingbird-like appearance. Unique aspects include:

  • Olive-green and black bands on the body
  • Clear wings with reddish-brown borders
  • Found near snowberry bushes, its caterpillar’s main food source

This species is native to North America, especially in habitats such as woodlands, meadows, and gardens.

Ecological Importance

Bee hawk moths play a critical role in ecosystem diversity worldwide. They serve as important pollinators, helping plants reproduce.

These moths support various interconnected ecosystems. They contribute to biodiverse environments which promote ecological sustainability.

Their pollination method is unique, using a long proboscis. This enables them to access deep floral tubes, reaching nectar from flowers other pollinators might not be able to.

  • Features of Bee Hawk Moths:
    • Nocturnal creatures
    • Long proboscis for pollination
    • Distinctive hummingbird-like flight

The presence of bee hawk moths in an ecosystem is a key indicator of ecological health. Healthy populations signal a stable and functioning habitat.

Comparison Table

Feature Bee Hawk Moth Other Pollinators (e.g., bees)
Pollination Method Long proboscis for deep reach Shorter and less versatile
Activity Time Nocturnal Diurnal (daytime)
Flight Style Hummingbird-like hover Distinctive wing patterns

Overall, bee hawk moths are crucial for maintaining and improving the ecological conditions of various ecosystems around the world. Their unique characteristics make them valuable pollinators and essential components of biodiversity.

Threats and Conservation Efforts

Deforestation

Deforestation poses a significant threat to the bee hawk moth. Many species of hawk moths are crucial pollinators, and the loss of their habitat can lead to the disappearance of these remarkable creatures. To avoid further decline in their population, it is essential to focus on preserving their natural habitats.

Some examples of how deforestation impacts the bee hawk moth include:

  • Loss of breeding and feeding grounds
  • Fragmentation of available habitat, leading to the isolation of populations
  • Exposure to predators, such as birds, due to the lack of shelter and hiding spots

Native Plants

The bee hawk moth relies on specific native plants for survival, like the Puerto Rican higo chumbo cactus and Egger’s century plant. These plants play a vital role in the hawk moth’s life cycle, providing sites for egg-laying and sources of nectar for adult moths.

Efforts to conserve these native plants will not only benefit the bee hawk moth but also other local wildlife. Some ways to conserve these native plants include:

  • Promoting the cultivation and planting of native species in gardens and landscaping
  • Supporting the preservation of habitats with a diverse range of native flora
  • Educating the public about the importance of native plants for ecosystem health and pollinators like the bee hawk moth

Comparison between Puerto Rican higo chumbo cactus and Egger’s century plant:

Feature Puerto Rican Higo Chumbo Cactus Egger’s Century Plant
Habitat Coastal areas and dry forests Pine rocklands
Pollinators Bee hawk moths, bats Bee hawk moths, bees
Conservation status Vulnerable Endangered

By addressing the threats of deforestation and the decline of native plants like the Puerto Rican higo chumbo cactus and Egger’s century plant, we can help protect bee hawk moths. These conservation efforts contribute to the overall health of ecosystems and promote the survival of many other species that depend on them.

Footnotes

  1. Hummingbird Moth
  2. Beautiful hawk moths are common in Michigan gardens this year 2

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Bee Hawkmoth Caterpillar in genus Cephonodes from Australia, but what species???

caterpillars found on gardenias in cairns
December 19, 2009
Dear Bugman, I am wondering if this is the bee hawkmoth I saw on your website from another lady. Our caterpillars are a little different colour wise to the picture on your website. They have a bluse stripe on their back, red and black dots above he leg pairs, and fine yellow and red stripes down the sides. They are bright green with a large spike at the back. They are (so far) up to 5cm long.
Leith B
Cairns,Australia

Bee Hawkmoth Caterpillar
Bee Hawkmoth Caterpillar

Dear Leith,
The Bee Hawkmoths in the genus Cephonodes are represented by at least four species in Australia that are listed on the Moths of Australia Website, and from what we have researched, they all feed on gardenia.  The caterpillars are somewhat variable, and though they resemble your specimen, none are an exact match.  Our first choice is  Cephonodes hylas, the Coffee Hawkmoth, which can be found on the Moths of Australia website, and the caterpillar is pictured on a stamp.  The Sphingidae of the Eastern Palaearctic website has images of the caterpillars that look very similar to your photo.  The caterpillars of the Gardenia Bee Hawk, Cephonodes kingii, are quite colorful as pictured on the Moths of Australia website.  We cannot locate an image of the caterpillar of Cephonodes picus, but it is described on the Moths of Australia website as “These caterpillars are usually green, with pale lines along the back and each side.

Dear Daniel, many thanks for that. We agree it looks like cephonodes hylas. It’s nice to know what it is going to turn into!
Kind Regads, Leith Banney and John EVans, Cairns.

Letter 2 – Bee Hawk Moth

Subject: Hemaris question
Location: Cleveland National Forest in Riverside County at about 2000 feet.
July 5, 2013 12:40 pm
I presume this is a Hemaris species. I took the photos in the Cleveland National Forest in Riverside County at about 2000 feet. What species is this in Southern California?
Signature: Doug

Bee Hawk Moth
Bee Hawk Moth

Hi Doug,
According to the Sphingidae of the Americas website, the only species of
Hemaris that lives in California is Hemaris thetis, the Bee Hawk Moth.  Bill Oehlke gives this explanation:  “Those Sphingidae west of the continental divide (western Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Utah, California, Arizona, western Wyoming, western Colorado, western New Mexico), previously thought to be H. diffinis are now determined to be the recently elevated species, Hemaris thetis. It is my understanding that the moths described as H. senta also belong to H. thetis as thetis was described (Boisduval, 1855) before senta was described [Strecker, 1878].”  Your photos are quite stunning.  We are copying Bill Oehlke as he may want to record your sighting and he may ask for permission to use your images on his comprehensive site as well.

Bill Oehlke confirms identification
Hi Daniel,
As far as I know the information you quoted is still current and accurate. It looks like Hemaris thetis to me.
My Riverside County thumbnail checklist is at
http://www.silkmoths.bizland.com/Sphinx/caRiversidesph.htm
I wish Doug’s permission to post the image, credited to him, on the Riverside page.
Bill Oehlke

Bee Hawk Moth
Bee Hawk Moth

Thanks for the information!
You are welcome to go ahead and post the images.
If you need a more specific location, the photo was taken along the road towards Blue Jay Campground, off Highway 74.
Best regards,
Doug

Letter 3 – Bee Hawk Moth from Australia

Moth with clear wings and colourful body
Sat, Jan 10, 2009 at 6:14 PM
Please can you tell me what this bug is? It flew into the house, struggling under it’s own weight! The body is over 3 cm long but including antennae it’s over 4 cm in length. It’s bottom goes feathery and flares out when it is flying. It is also quite loud in flight. My son insists that it isn’t, but I am placing my bet on ‘moth’.
Ann H
Artarmon, NSW Australia

Bee Hawk Moth
Bee Hawk Moth

Hi Ann,
Your son is correct.  This is a Bee Hawk Moth, Cephonodes kingii.  We identified it on the Brisbane Insect Website.  An Australian Caterpillar Website has images of the entire metamorphosis and identifies it as the Gardenia Hawk Moth because the caterpillar feeds on gardenia.

Letter 4 – Bee Hawkmoth Caterpillar from Australia

yellow caterpillar in Tropical Australia
December 29, 2009
Dear Bugman,
I live in Tropical North Queensland, Australia and it is currently the wet season (Summer). I found this little critter eating a Camilla bush and was wondering what beautiful butterfly he is going to turn into? Kind regards,
GG
Cairns, Australia

Bee Hawkmoth Caterpillar
Bee Hawkmoth Caterpillar

Dear GG,
We are nearly certain this is the caterpillar of the Bee Hawkmoth, Cephonodes hylas.  We posted a photo of another caterpillar also from Australia a few weeks ago.  You may also compare to the caterpillar images on the Sphingidae of the Eastern Palaearctic website.

Letter 5 – Mating Olive Bee Hawkmoths in Croatia

bee?
Location: Croatia
December 26, 2010 6:11 pm
hey bugman,
we went to croatia this summer and took some lovely photos of mating bugs and now were wondering: what are they?
Signature: Evelyne

Mating Olive Bee Hawkmoths

Hi Evelyne,
We quickly identified your mating Olive Bee Hawkmoths,
Hemaris croatica, on the Sphingidae of the Western Palaearctic website.

Letter 6 – Bee Hawk Moth

Subject: Beefly? What kind?
Location: Voldstream bc
May 18, 2016 11:28 pm
Location: coldstream, bc
Date: May 18, 2016
Detail: seen everywhere on our 5 acre hobby farm. I keep rescuing them from out of our hot greenhouses. Havent seen these fellers in our area before.
We have normally lots of polination plants and wild bees.
Thanks.
ER
Signature: in kind

Bee Hawkmoth
Bee Hawk Moth

Dear ER,
Bee Flies, like other flies, have a single pair of wings.  Your insect has two sets of wings.  It is a Bee Hawk Moth,
Hemaris thetis, which we identified on the Sphingidae of the Americas site where it states:  “Adults mimic bumblebees and are quite variable, both geographically and seasonally. The wings are basically clear, with dark brown to brownish-orange veins, bases and edges. The thorax is golden-brown to dark greenish-brown. The abdomen tends to be dark (black) with 1-2 yellow segments just before the terminal end. These yellow segments are in much sharper contrast to the rest of the abdomen than in somewhat similar species. Also note the relatively narrow dark outer margin of the hindwing. Most fresh specimens also have some blue “fur” tufts highlighting the first black band on the abdomen.” 

Hello Daniel,
Thank you so much for this detailed id. I am excited I have a bee hawkmoth on my property ~
Evan

Letter 7 – Coffee Bee Hawkmoth

Subject:  Yellow bee fly insect – what is it?
Geographic location of the bug:  Johannesburg, South Africa
Date: 09/17/2017
Time: 07:43 AM EDT
Hi. I saw this in my garden on 9th September; it’s the start of Spring here. I’ve never seen one before. Can someone identify it?
How you want your letter signed:  Jiten Singh

Coffee Bee Hawkmoth

Dear Jiten,
This is a Coffee Bee Hawkmoth,
Cephonodes hylas, a species found in many parts of Asia, Africa and Australia.  We found it pictured on FlickR and BioDiversity Explorer.  This is a diurnal species that can easily be confused with a large bee or a hummingbird.

Thanks very much for the prompt response and the great service.
Have a good day.
Regards
Jiten

Letter 8 – Bee Hawkmoth

Subject:  Looks like a rare moth almost 1″ wingspan and length
Geographic location of the bug:  NW Montana
Your letter to the bugman:  I saw this in our lawn a few days ago. Thought it was a bee, but could actually be a moth.
How you want your letter signed:  Rich Kurth

Bee Hawkmoth

Dear Rich,
This Bee Hawk Moth is called solely by its scientific name 
Hemaris thetis on BugGuide. but on Sphingidae of the Americas, it is given a physiologically descriptive common name.

Thank you Daniel. You nailed it. An absolutely beautiful moth.
Rich

Letter 9 – Broad Bordered Bee Hawkmoth from Portugal

Subject:  Moth
Geographic location of the bug:  Fonhadela, Vila Real, Portugal.
Date: 05/22/2020
Time: 02:41 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Hello.I have been trying to identify this moth. But I do not know if it is Hemaris fuciformis or H.thysbe. Which one have I photographed? And what is the difference between both species?
Thank you. Isabel.
How you want your letter signed:  Informal

Broad Bordered Bee Hawkmoth

We believe this is a Broad Bordered Bee Hawkmoth, Hemaris fuciformis, and not Hemaris thysbe, a new world species.  It is pictured on Sphingidae of the Western Palaearctic and on Insecta.pro where it states:  “It flies from late May to early July.”

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Bee Hawkmoth Caterpillar in genus Cephonodes from Australia, but what species???

caterpillars found on gardenias in cairns
December 19, 2009
Dear Bugman, I am wondering if this is the bee hawkmoth I saw on your website from another lady. Our caterpillars are a little different colour wise to the picture on your website. They have a bluse stripe on their back, red and black dots above he leg pairs, and fine yellow and red stripes down the sides. They are bright green with a large spike at the back. They are (so far) up to 5cm long.
Leith B
Cairns,Australia

Bee Hawkmoth Caterpillar
Bee Hawkmoth Caterpillar

Dear Leith,
The Bee Hawkmoths in the genus Cephonodes are represented by at least four species in Australia that are listed on the Moths of Australia Website, and from what we have researched, they all feed on gardenia.  The caterpillars are somewhat variable, and though they resemble your specimen, none are an exact match.  Our first choice is  Cephonodes hylas, the Coffee Hawkmoth, which can be found on the Moths of Australia website, and the caterpillar is pictured on a stamp.  The Sphingidae of the Eastern Palaearctic website has images of the caterpillars that look very similar to your photo.  The caterpillars of the Gardenia Bee Hawk, Cephonodes kingii, are quite colorful as pictured on the Moths of Australia website.  We cannot locate an image of the caterpillar of Cephonodes picus, but it is described on the Moths of Australia website as “These caterpillars are usually green, with pale lines along the back and each side.

Dear Daniel, many thanks for that. We agree it looks like cephonodes hylas. It’s nice to know what it is going to turn into!
Kind Regads, Leith Banney and John EVans, Cairns.

Letter 2 – Bee Hawk Moth

Subject: Hemaris question
Location: Cleveland National Forest in Riverside County at about 2000 feet.
July 5, 2013 12:40 pm
I presume this is a Hemaris species. I took the photos in the Cleveland National Forest in Riverside County at about 2000 feet. What species is this in Southern California?
Signature: Doug

Bee Hawk Moth
Bee Hawk Moth

Hi Doug,
According to the Sphingidae of the Americas website, the only species of
Hemaris that lives in California is Hemaris thetis, the Bee Hawk Moth.  Bill Oehlke gives this explanation:  “Those Sphingidae west of the continental divide (western Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Utah, California, Arizona, western Wyoming, western Colorado, western New Mexico), previously thought to be H. diffinis are now determined to be the recently elevated species, Hemaris thetis. It is my understanding that the moths described as H. senta also belong to H. thetis as thetis was described (Boisduval, 1855) before senta was described [Strecker, 1878].”  Your photos are quite stunning.  We are copying Bill Oehlke as he may want to record your sighting and he may ask for permission to use your images on his comprehensive site as well.

Bill Oehlke confirms identification
Hi Daniel,
As far as I know the information you quoted is still current and accurate. It looks like Hemaris thetis to me.
My Riverside County thumbnail checklist is at
http://www.silkmoths.bizland.com/Sphinx/caRiversidesph.htm
I wish Doug’s permission to post the image, credited to him, on the Riverside page.
Bill Oehlke

Bee Hawk Moth
Bee Hawk Moth

Thanks for the information!
You are welcome to go ahead and post the images.
If you need a more specific location, the photo was taken along the road towards Blue Jay Campground, off Highway 74.
Best regards,
Doug

Letter 3 – Bee Hawk Moth from Australia

Moth with clear wings and colourful body
Sat, Jan 10, 2009 at 6:14 PM
Please can you tell me what this bug is? It flew into the house, struggling under it’s own weight! The body is over 3 cm long but including antennae it’s over 4 cm in length. It’s bottom goes feathery and flares out when it is flying. It is also quite loud in flight. My son insists that it isn’t, but I am placing my bet on ‘moth’.
Ann H
Artarmon, NSW Australia

Bee Hawk Moth
Bee Hawk Moth

Hi Ann,
Your son is correct.  This is a Bee Hawk Moth, Cephonodes kingii.  We identified it on the Brisbane Insect Website.  An Australian Caterpillar Website has images of the entire metamorphosis and identifies it as the Gardenia Hawk Moth because the caterpillar feeds on gardenia.

Letter 4 – Bee Hawkmoth Caterpillar from Australia

yellow caterpillar in Tropical Australia
December 29, 2009
Dear Bugman,
I live in Tropical North Queensland, Australia and it is currently the wet season (Summer). I found this little critter eating a Camilla bush and was wondering what beautiful butterfly he is going to turn into? Kind regards,
GG
Cairns, Australia

Bee Hawkmoth Caterpillar
Bee Hawkmoth Caterpillar

Dear GG,
We are nearly certain this is the caterpillar of the Bee Hawkmoth, Cephonodes hylas.  We posted a photo of another caterpillar also from Australia a few weeks ago.  You may also compare to the caterpillar images on the Sphingidae of the Eastern Palaearctic website.

Letter 5 – Mating Olive Bee Hawkmoths in Croatia

bee?
Location: Croatia
December 26, 2010 6:11 pm
hey bugman,
we went to croatia this summer and took some lovely photos of mating bugs and now were wondering: what are they?
Signature: Evelyne

Mating Olive Bee Hawkmoths

Hi Evelyne,
We quickly identified your mating Olive Bee Hawkmoths,
Hemaris croatica, on the Sphingidae of the Western Palaearctic website.

Letter 6 – Bee Hawk Moth

Subject: Beefly? What kind?
Location: Voldstream bc
May 18, 2016 11:28 pm
Location: coldstream, bc
Date: May 18, 2016
Detail: seen everywhere on our 5 acre hobby farm. I keep rescuing them from out of our hot greenhouses. Havent seen these fellers in our area before.
We have normally lots of polination plants and wild bees.
Thanks.
ER
Signature: in kind

Bee Hawkmoth
Bee Hawk Moth

Dear ER,
Bee Flies, like other flies, have a single pair of wings.  Your insect has two sets of wings.  It is a Bee Hawk Moth,
Hemaris thetis, which we identified on the Sphingidae of the Americas site where it states:  “Adults mimic bumblebees and are quite variable, both geographically and seasonally. The wings are basically clear, with dark brown to brownish-orange veins, bases and edges. The thorax is golden-brown to dark greenish-brown. The abdomen tends to be dark (black) with 1-2 yellow segments just before the terminal end. These yellow segments are in much sharper contrast to the rest of the abdomen than in somewhat similar species. Also note the relatively narrow dark outer margin of the hindwing. Most fresh specimens also have some blue “fur” tufts highlighting the first black band on the abdomen.” 

Hello Daniel,
Thank you so much for this detailed id. I am excited I have a bee hawkmoth on my property ~
Evan

Letter 7 – Coffee Bee Hawkmoth

Subject:  Yellow bee fly insect – what is it?
Geographic location of the bug:  Johannesburg, South Africa
Date: 09/17/2017
Time: 07:43 AM EDT
Hi. I saw this in my garden on 9th September; it’s the start of Spring here. I’ve never seen one before. Can someone identify it?
How you want your letter signed:  Jiten Singh

Coffee Bee Hawkmoth

Dear Jiten,
This is a Coffee Bee Hawkmoth,
Cephonodes hylas, a species found in many parts of Asia, Africa and Australia.  We found it pictured on FlickR and BioDiversity Explorer.  This is a diurnal species that can easily be confused with a large bee or a hummingbird.

Thanks very much for the prompt response and the great service.
Have a good day.
Regards
Jiten

Letter 8 – Bee Hawkmoth

Subject:  Looks like a rare moth almost 1″ wingspan and length
Geographic location of the bug:  NW Montana
Your letter to the bugman:  I saw this in our lawn a few days ago. Thought it was a bee, but could actually be a moth.
How you want your letter signed:  Rich Kurth

Bee Hawkmoth

Dear Rich,
This Bee Hawk Moth is called solely by its scientific name 
Hemaris thetis on BugGuide. but on Sphingidae of the Americas, it is given a physiologically descriptive common name.

Thank you Daniel. You nailed it. An absolutely beautiful moth.
Rich

Letter 9 – Broad Bordered Bee Hawkmoth from Portugal

Subject:  Moth
Geographic location of the bug:  Fonhadela, Vila Real, Portugal.
Date: 05/22/2020
Time: 02:41 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Hello.I have been trying to identify this moth. But I do not know if it is Hemaris fuciformis or H.thysbe. Which one have I photographed? And what is the difference between both species?
Thank you. Isabel.
How you want your letter signed:  Informal

Broad Bordered Bee Hawkmoth

We believe this is a Broad Bordered Bee Hawkmoth, Hemaris fuciformis, and not Hemaris thysbe, a new world species.  It is pictured on Sphingidae of the Western Palaearctic and on Insecta.pro where it states:  “It flies from late May to early July.”

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Authors

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  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

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  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

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5 thoughts on “Discovering the Bee Hawk Moth: A Deep Dive into Its Hidden Facts”

  1. So glad I found this website. My caterpillar is exactly the same as Leith’s and is currently chewing its way through my gardenias in Cairns – probably has some camouflaged friends. I would have liked it to be a butterfly caterpillar, to watch its transformation with the grandchildren but it will have to go back to eating the garden. Thanks.

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  2. I saw one of these yesterday in my backyard while I was looking at my flowers. It went after the little flowers that look like little petunias. I thought it was a huge bumble bee but the wings were really fast and it had a tongue like a butterfly. kind of looked like a hummingbird too. I live in Saint Clair Shores, Michigan. I wanted to get a picture of it but didn’t have my camera at the time. The abdomen had a bright yellow and black band on the end of it.

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  3. I have just found some tiny lime green caterpillars with a black horn on the underside of the leaves of a young Tetrastigma nitens vine in Brisbane. There are quite a few tint (1mm) light green eggs as well. While I do not have any gardenias, my neighbour has an Attractocarpus fitzlandii and maybe a couple of small exotic gardenias. I don’t see any mention of Cephonodes kingii munching out on T nitens and I am wondering if these could be the critters and if the young vine going to be able to survive the festivities.

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  4. I believe this is the Moth that was on my flowers this late morning on 7th of August. Had a beautiful low hum of wing engine noise, and a gorgeous work ethic. What a sight!

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