Snowberry Clearwing: Essential Facts and Tips

The Snowberry Clearwing is a fascinating insect that often leaves people in awe. These beautiful creatures are pollinators that dart from flower to flower in search of nectar, often resembling large bees or small hummingbirds as they do so. Their speedy movement and rapid wing beats can make them quite a sight to see, particularly in gardens across the United States.

As their name suggests, the Snowberry Clearwing is easily identified by its clear wings. In addition to their wings, they also have intriguing markings and colors that add to their captivating appearance. With a wide range across North America, these insects are an essential part of the ecosystem, helping to pollinate various plants.

Understanding the Snowberry Clearwing better might lead you to appreciate the intricate role they play in the natural world. If you’re lucky enough to spot one in your backyard or while on a hike, take a moment to observe their unique characteristics and movements, perhaps gaining a newfound respect for these small yet impactful creatures.

Physical Characteristics

Wings Features

The Snowberry Clearwing is an interesting species, with wings that display a few unique attributes. For instance, their wings possess transparent sections which give them a distinct appearance. These clear patches are surrounded by other areas that are tinted with hues of brown or rust, making for a striking contrast.

  • Length: Snowberry Clearwing wingspan varies between 1 1/4 to 2 inches (32–51 mm).
  • Fine hairs: The wings have fine hairs that give them a somewhat fuzzy appearance.
  • Fuzzy bodies: Their bodies also have a covering of fuzzy hairs, adding to their moth-like appearance.

Here is a quick comparison table to help you understand the wing features better.

Feature Description
Wingspan 1 1/4 to 2 inches (32–51 mm)
Transparent Wings Clear sections amidst colored areas
Fine hairs Present on both wings and body

So, when you encounter a Snowberry Clearwing, take a moment to appreciate its unique wing features, such as the transparent sections, fine hairs, and fuzzy bodies. These characteristics set them apart from other species and make them truly special.

Classification and Species

Hemaris Diffinis

The Snowberry Clearwing Moth (Hemaris diffinis) is a unique species of moth belonging to the Lepidoptera order and the Sphinx Moth family. It is part of the Animalia kingdom, Arthropoda phylum, and Insecta class1. They are often mistaken for bees or small hummingbirds, as they rapidly beat their wings while collecting nectar from flowers2.

  • Scientific classification:
    • Kingdom: Animalia
    • Phylum: Arthropoda
    • Class: Insecta
    • Order: Lepidoptera
    • Family: Sphingidae
    • Genus: Hemaris
    • Species: H. diffinis

Sphinx Moths

Sphinx Moths are a diverse group of moths within the Sphingidae family and Lepidoptera order3. They are known for their large size, streamlined bodies, and impressive flying capabilities.

Here are some characteristics of Sphinx Moths:

  • Masterful hoverers, similar to hummingbirds4.
  • Attracted to night-blooming flowers due to their nocturnal feeding habits.
  • Sphinx Moth caterpillars are known as hornworms due to the horn-like protrusion on their tail end.

Here is a comparison table of the Snowberry Clearwing and Sphinx Moth features:

Feature Snowberry Clearwing Sphinx Moths
Size Smaller Larger
Wings Clear, partially Opaque
Appearance Bee or hummingbird-like Moth-like
Feeding time Daytime2 Nocturnal4
Family Sphingidae Sphingidae

Life Cycle and Reproduction

Caterpillar Phase

The life cycle of the Snowberry Clearwing begins with the eggs. A female moth will lay her eggs on the leaves of host plants. Once the eggs hatch, tiny caterpillars emerge and start to feed on the foliage. During this larval stage, the caterpillars undergo several developmental stages, called instars. You might notice that they start to change in color and pattern as they grow.

After reaching their full size, usually within a few weeks, the caterpillars are ready for the next stage of their life cycle – the pupa. They will create their protective cocoons by spinning silk around themselves. These cocoons are usually found on the ground or attached to twigs and leaves.

Adult Moth Stage

Once the development inside the cocoon is complete, the adult Snowberry Clearwing moth emerges. As a moth, their main purpose is reproduction. Male and female moths will mate, and the female will lay her eggs to start a new generation of caterpillars.

Adult Snowberry Clearwing moths have some unique characteristics:

  • They closely resemble hummingbirds or bees in their appearance and flight pattern
  • They have a long proboscis, which they use for feeding on nectar from flowers
  • They are diurnal, meaning they are active during the day rather than at night

In summary, the Snowberry Clearwing’s life cycle consists of four main stages: egg, caterpillar (larval stage), pupa (cocoon), and adult moth. This fascinating species goes through remarkable transformations during its life, from a plant-eating caterpillar to a nectar-feeding adult moth, all while maintaining its captivating appearance.

Diet and Feeding Habits

Flower and Nectar Consumption

The Snowberry Clearwing, a fascinating moth, relies on flower nectar as its primary food source. To access the nectar, it uses its long, straw-like proboscis. When feeding, you’ll often see this moth hovering near flowers, similar to a hummingbird.

To accommodate their diet, Snowberry Clearwings prefer areas with an abundance of flowering plants. As an example, they are often found near gardens or meadows where flowers grow in abundance. This diet provides them with the energy they need to maintain their active lifestyle.

In summary, the Snowberry Clearwing’s diet mainly consists of flower nectar, with its long proboscis playing a crucial role in feeding. This moth’s preference for flowers ensures they have a consistent source of nutrition to support their active lives. Remember, if you want to attract these fascinating creatures, consider planting flowers in your garden or near meadows.

Habitat and Geographical Distribution

North America Distribution

The Snowberry Clearwing can be found across various regions in North America, like Canada and the United States. It is known to inhabit areas in the Northwest Territories, British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba, Illinois, and West Virginia. They even extend to the east coast, ranging from Maine to Florida.

State-Specific Habitats

In California, the Snowberry Clearwing typically resides in the slopes and valley bottoms of the foothills in the Coast Ranges and the Sierra Nevada mountains.

In British Columbia, this species thrives in a variety of habitats such as forests, meadows, and even urban areas.

The Appalachia region, including West Virginia, also makes for a suitable habitat for the Snowberry Clearwing, where they live in forest clearings and meadows.

To summarize, the Snowberry Clearwing can be found in diverse habitats across North America. They adapt well to various environments, but their preference seems to be areas with vegetation and flowering plants, as they serve as important pollinators.

Relationship with Plants

Importance in Pollination

The Snowberry Clearwing plays a crucial role in pollination. As they visit various plants while seeking nectar from flowers, they transfer pollen from one bloom to another, assisting in plant reproduction. For example, while hovering around honeysuckle and dogbane, they help these plants flourish by aiding in their pollination process.

Here are some common plants Snowberry Clearwing moths pollinate:

  • Honeysuckle
  • Dogbane
  • Horse gentian
  • Blue star
  • Hawthorn
  • Plum
  • Viburnum

Host Plants

As part of their life cycle, Snowberry Clearwing caterpillars rely on specific host plants for nourishment and development. The larvae feed on the leaves of these plants, which provide essential nutrients for growth. Some primary host plants for Snowberry Clearwing caterpillars include snowberry plant (symphoricarpos) and buckbrush. Other common host plants are deciduous shrubs, such as hawthorn, plum, and viburnum.

Here’s a quick comparison table showing some host plants and their characteristics:

Host Plant Type Features
Snowberry plant Deciduous shrub Produces white berries, drought-tolerant
Buckbrush Deciduous shrub Small white flowers, drought-tolerant
Hawthorn Deciduous shrub White spring blossoms, red or black fruit, thorny branches
Plum Deciduous shrub White or pink flowers, purple or yellow fruit
Viburnum Deciduous shrub Fragrant flowers, colorful berries, deer resistant

By understanding the relationship between Snowberry Clearwing moths and these plants, you can better appreciate the interconnectedness of nature and the essential role these fascinating creatures play in healthy ecosystems.

Interactions and Camouflage

Mimicry of Other Species

The Snowberry Clearwing is a fascinating creature known for its ability to mimic other species. This impressive moth looks and behaves like a hybrid of a hummingbird and a bumblebee. By doing so, the Snowberry Clearwing can blend in with its surroundings and avoid potential threats. For instance, as they hover around flowers and feed on nectar in a similar manner to hummingbirds, predators might mistake them for these unrelated birds. Moreover, Snowberry Clearwings display resemblance to bumblebees, allowing them to scare off some predators that may not want to risk getting stung.

Predation and Threats

Snowberry Clearwings face various threats in their environment, including predators and human activities. Some insects and birds might prey on the Snowberry Clearwing, although its bumblebee-like appearance offers some protection. However, camouflage is not always foolproof. For this reason, the Snowberry Clearwing employs other strategies to avoid threats:

  • Speed and agility: Like hummingbirds, Snowberry Clearwings possess swift flight and rapid wing beats, making them difficult for predators to catch.

To ensure the survival of Snowberry Clearwings, it’s essential to help preserve their native habitats and minimize the use of harmful chemicals. As important pollinators, these moths contribute to plant biodiversity and the overall health of ecosystems. By understanding their interactions and camouflage strategies, we can promote their wellbeing and continued existence in the wild.

Role in the Ecosystem

Plant Attraction

The Snowberry Clearwing plays a significant role in the ecosystem, specifically as a pollinator. These little creatures are attracted to a variety of plants, particularly those with white flowers, like the snowberry plant. When they visit these flowers, their rapid movements and wingbeats make them resemble large bees or small hummingbirds. As they dart quickly from flower to flower, they sip nectar in full sunlight, subsequently helping with the pollination process.

Influence on Population Control

In their role as pollinators, Snowberry Clearwings also contribute to population control of various plants within their ecosystem. By transferring pollen between flowers, they aid in the reproduction of plants, impacting overall plant populations. This, in turn, affects the availability of shelter and food for different bird species and small mammals that rely on these plants. Thus, their impact goes beyond just pollination, as they help to maintain a balance in their ecological community.

Interesting Facts

Unique Nicknames

Snowberry Clearwing, scientifically known as Hemaris diffinis, is popularly known for its interesting nicknames. Among those, it is commonly referred to as the hummingbird moth due to its resemblance to a hummingbird in appearance and behavior. Another lesser-known nickname is the flying lobster, which is inspired by its vibrant colors and swift flight patterns.

Flight Patterns

The Snowberry Clearwing has distinct flight patterns that make it stand out. Here are some key aspects of its flight:

  • It is known for its rapid wingbeats, allowing it to hover in place and quickly dart from flower to flower.
  • As it sips nectar, it tends to perform these actions in full sunlight, making it an important pollinator.
  • Its flight patterns closely resemble those of hummingbirds and bees, causing it to be mistaken for either of these creatures.

By observing Snowberry Clearwing’s unique nicknames and flight patterns, you can better appreciate the fascinating nature of this remarkable insect.

Footnotes

  1. Snowberry Clearwing – Missouri Department of Conservation

  2. Snowberry clearwing – Arthropod Museum, University of Arkansas 2

  3. Sphinx Moths – Basic Information

  4. Hummingbird Moths – The Gardener’s Weekly 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 – Snowberry Clearwing Moth

 

Butterfly lobster tailed bumble bug?
Location:  New Jersey, Monmouth County
July 19, 2010 8:04 am
Help!
My son and I watched this bug for a while flying around my phlox, it was fast and fed like a butterfly, the wings where long and the body was almost 2 inches. The tail was the most interesting, the shape was like a lobster tail, the head area was fuzzy and yellow. We took so many pictures and these were the only ones in focus, the little guys was flying flower to flower like a bee or wasp, not at all interested in his observers. This guy was found early July in Monmouth county , New Jersey
Curiously Yours, Dom and Mom

Snowberry Clearwing

Hi Dom and Mom,
It is impossible for us to be certain of the exact identification of your moth because there are three members of the genus
Hemaris, which look quite similar, that are all found in New Jersey.  We believe, because of the dark legs and coloration, your moth is a Snowberry Clearwing or Bumblebee Moth, Hemaris diffinis.  You can read more about this Sphinx Moth which is often mistaken for a hummingbird on Bill Oehlke’s excellent website.

Letter 2 – Snowberry Clearwing Caterpillar

 

Unknown Caterpillar
Location: York, Pennsylvania USA
August 22, 2011 6:21 pm
Hi, I have a smooth green caterpillar we found near our stream. It is pale gray on the back, lime green on the sides with black dots and white halos around the dots. It has a yellow ring around its head and rear end. It had a black ”tail” with a yellow base. We looked in 3 books but couldn’t find it. Any help would be appreciated.
Signature: Mercy

Snowberry Clearwing Caterpillar

Hi Mercy,
This is the caterpillar of a Snowberry Clearwing or Bumblebee Moth,
Hemaris diffinis.  The adults are diurnal sphinx moths that are often mistaken for hummingbirds.  You may read more about this species on The Sphingidae of the Americas website. 

Daniel,
Thank you so much for your ID and your information. I really appreciate it! -Mercy Harris

Letter 3 – Snowberry Clearwing

 

butterfly?
Location: Northern Illinois
August 5, 2011 11:09 pm
I have not seen this type of bug before and am thinking it’s a butterfly or some sort. It’s wings beat very rapidly to the point I couldn’t see them when it was in flight. It seemed hover to drink nectar from ”butterfly bushes” vs actually land. I would guess the body was 1 1/2 – 2 inches long. I took these pics myself 8/5/11.
Signature: ~Pam

Snowberry Clearwing

Hi Pam,
This is a diurnal Sphinx Moth in the genus
Hemaris, and they are frequently mistaken for hummingbirds.  Of the three similar species in the genus reported from Illinois, we believe yours is Hemaris diffinis, commonly called the Snowberry Clearwing or Bumblebee Moth.  You can read more about this species on the Sphingidae of the Americas website.  Your lovely photos show the dark legs and mask through the eye that we used as characteristics to determine the species.

Snowberry Clearwing

Letter 4 – Snowberry Clearwing

 

Subject: Moth
Location: Ardmore, Oklahoma
July 8, 2013 3:12 pm
This moth was flying around my Abilia bush …July 7, 2013
Signature: M Burke

Clearwing
Snowberry Clearwing

Dear M Burke,
This is one of the diurnal Clearwing Sphinxes in the genus Hemaris.  We are not certain if it is the Hummingbird Clearwing Moth,
Hemaris thysbe (see Sphingidae of the Americas), or the Snowberry Clearwing, Hemaris diffinis, which is also pictured on the Sphingidae of the Americas website.  Both species are often confused for hummingbirds because of they similarity in the way that they fly and hover while feeding from blossoms.  We have contacted Bill Oehlke for assistance.  We suspect this is the Snowberry Clearwing.

Bill Oehlke concurs
Diffinis,
Note black legs and black line running though eye.
Bill

Letter 5 – Squash Vine Borer

 

wasp?
i searched on your site for this and couldn’t find anything close. This insect was maybe an inch long and seemed to be a wasp to me. I never messed with the color at all, and his legs were real furry like he was wearing chaps. If you could tell me what this is, we would deeply appreciate it. I’m located in Dundas, Ontario, Canada. thanks!!
Valerie

Hi Valerie,
This is a Clearwing Moth in the Family Sesiidae. We are quite busy right now and do not have the time to identify the exact species, but BugGuide has numerous images. We are already running late for work this morning but we feel obligated to post at least one new letter. Good luck with an exact identification.

Update:
We just approved a comment that identified this as a Squash Vine Borer.

Letter 6 – Wasp Mimic Moth from Belize

 

Subject: clearwing moth
Location: Mountain Pine Ridge, Belize, Central America
January 15, 2013 4:52 pm
I photographed this clearwing moth at 1000 foot falls overlook on December 27, 2012. Our guide was sure it was a wasp and wouldn’t come close. Everyone in our party agreed it was lepidoptera with the antenna and proboscis. I have been told it is probably iin the trichura family. Thank you for any help
Signature: Karen Saxton

Wasp Mimic Moth

Hi Karen,
You are correct.  This is a moth, and we suspect it is in the family Sesiidae, the Clearwing Wasp Moths, but we would not totally rule out that it might be one of the wasp mimics in the Arctiinae, more specifically the Ctenuchina.  That pseudo-stinger is quite the mimicry adaptation.  It looks very similar to the mounted specimen of
Isanthrene azia (?) that is on the Moths of Belize website, but that individual is lacking the pseudo-stinger.  We will contact Arctiid expert Julian Donahue to get his opinion.

Clearwing Wasp Moth

Julian Donahue responds
Ctenuchid for sure. Members of the genus Trichura appear to mimic Pepsis tarantula wasps, with that posterior appendage that looks like the trailing legs of a wasp. About 15 species are currently placed in Trichura, some without the terminal appendage (but maybe described from specimens that had lost it?), but this one is most likely T. cerberus (which is supposed to have a wider forewing discal bar than shows in the photo) or T. druryi, originally described as lacking the caudal appendage, both of which occur in Central America. As in most ctenuchid genera, this genus has not been subject to a modern taxonomic revision.
Curiously, the sesiid genus Alcathoe has a similar caudal appendage, and also mimics Pepsis wasps.
Julian

Letter 7 – Texas Wasp Moth from Mexico: Horama panthalon

 

Subject: Wasp-like insect from Tampico
Location: Tampico, Mexico
November 3, 2013 8:10 am
My wife found this bug outside our garden. She insists it is a type of bee. I think it is some sort of fly that resembles a wasp for protective measures. Could you set the record straight?
This was found in Tampico, Tamaulipas Mexico. Near Gulf of Mexico coast.
Signature: Rexnatus

Wasp-Mimic Clearwing Moth
Texas Wasp Moth

Hi again Rexnatus,
These are gorgeous photos of a wasp-mimicking Clearwing Moth in the family Sesiidae.  We have examples of this family on our site, including
Horama plumipes and this still unidentified species we posted in 2007.  Maybe Karl will have some time to research this identification.

Unidentified Sesiid Moth from Mexico
Horama panthalon

Ed. Note:  November 7, 2013
Thanks to a comment from Rexnatus, we have corrected the classification and we can now provide the species name for
Horama panthalon, commonly called the Texas Wasp Moth on BugGuide.

Letter 8 – Sycamore Borer

 

Subject: Cross between butterfly and bee
Location: Encinitas, California
May 23, 2014 10:24 am
Hello!
I found this bug outside on my truck. I have never seen anything like it before. Do you know what it is?
Thank you!
Signature: Lucille

Hornet Moth
Sycamore Borer

Hi Lucille,
Your insect is a moth in the family Sesiidae, the Clearwing Moths, and many members of the family, including your individual, are excellent mimics of hornets and wasps.  Your individual resembles the American Hornet Moth,
Sesia tibiale, which is pictured on BugGuide, however, we cannot say for certain if we have correctly identified your individual as the American Hornet Moth.  Your individual appears to have some yellow scales on the wings and there is a tufted abdomen, features that appear to be lacking in the American Hornet Moth.  We continued searching revealed a much better match, the Sycamore Borer, Synanthedon resplendens, which we located on The Moths Photogragher and then verified on BugGuide where it states:  “Larval hosts: prefered – Platanus racemosa (California sycamore); also used – Quercus agrifolia (Coast live oak); occasionally avacado.”  The larvae are wood borers.

Letter 9 – Rustic Sphinx and Snowberry Clearwing

 

Moth (Snowberry Clearwing??)
Hi,
We just bought a house in Alabama and it seems that it has a plethora of unique wildlife. I was out by my pool and there was this strange "bird-bee" foraging through the flowers. I captured one and thought it was a Nessus Sphinx, but it doesn’t have the two distinct lines above the tail. Then I thought it may be the Snowberry Clearwing, but it has a yellow head with a black stripe (vertically) and the yellow appears to go down its back in a "V" shape. It does have clear wings and a "bird like" apearance. I snapped some pictures of it while in the jar, but I fear that none may be suitable for identification purposes. Also, its tail isn’t depictied well in my photos. It has the 3 part tail like the Nessus Sphinx, but that is not visible in the pictures. I also have photographs of a moth that I believe to be the Rustic Sphinx (they were taken in El Paso, TX). I have included those as well. Any help that you may be able to give with the identification of these insects would be appreciated. Thank you!! Great site, by the way!! Very informative!!
Danielle Jones

(04/23/2006) School Needs Answers
Dear Bugman, I wrote to you earlier and sent in a couple of photographs of what I believed to be the Snowberry Clearwing Moth and also a Rustic Sphinx Moth. I would normally be far more patient than I appear to be at this time, but I have a whole school waiting for your reply. My father-in-law is the principal at Groves Elementary in Texas (I live in Jasper, Alabama which is the origin of the moth) and I gave him the moth when we visited him at Easter. He, in turn, turned it over to his science teachers who are actively awaiting a response from me. I gave him your website info and he informed me that he and his science teachers loved the site and will be using it for future reference. Everyone that I have shared this site with, LOVES it. It is tremendously informative and very well put together. I know that you get several emails every day, but I was just hoping that you could help in this identification as soon as possible. The kids were so excited to have a moth that they have never seen before and now we just need a “name to go with the face”. Thank you so much for any assistance you may be able to give us.
Danielle Jones

Hi Danielle,
Sorry for the delay, but it is impossible to answer every letter. We found your original letter with the images, and have a vague recollection of opening the first very large file and finding a photo too blurry to identify. We never attempted to open the others and just moved to anothe letter, intending to return when time permitted. Then we were overwhelmed with incoming mail and your letter was relegated to the dead letter file which we occasionally sift through. Your Rustic Sphinx is a correct identification. The Snowberry Clearwing is probably correct, but there are several very similar species as well as much variation within the species. We will say that it is probably a Snowberry Clearwing, but it is at least in the same genus Hemaris.

Letter 10 – Snowberry Clearwing

 

Hummingbird moth?
Can you tell me what kind of moth this is? I’ve been calling it a hummingbird moth, but I’d like to know for sure. I took these pics on May 28 last year, when I spotted this beautiful moth on my lilacs. We live in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. It’s the first and only time I’ve seen one! Thanks!
Daryl Ann Anderson
Alston, Michigan

hi Daryl,
This appears to be Hemaris diffinis, the Snowberry Clearwing or Bumblebee Moth.

Letter 11 – Snowberry Clearwing

 

Hummingbird Clearwing Moth??
Location: Saxtons River, Vermont
July 31, 2011 7:00 am
Hi Daniel,
The guy was darting around in my vast stands of bee balm yesterday. I searched your site and initially believed it’s a Hummingbird Clearwing Moth, but I’m not certain. Is that correct?
Signature: K L Thalin

Snowberry Clearwing

Hi Daniel,
Karen Thalin here, from Saxtons River, Vermont.
I JUST sent you a (two photo) submission on the web site of what I THINK is a Hummingbird Clearwing Moth, taken by me in my gardens yesterday. I was again looking through all my pix after hitting the “send” button, and realized that I had this one, which shows the color very well, even though the image is a bit blurry. This guy seems to be a little different than the HCM photos I’ve looked at on your site. It has bumble bee coloring. I’m not sending THIS email/photo to be published, but only to give you another view of the moth, if that will help with identifying it.
Thanks!
KT

Snowberry Clearwing

Hi Karen,
The best place to identify Sphinx Moths is on The Sphingidae of the Americas website because you can search by individual states.  There are three species of diurnal Sphinx Moths in the genus
Hemaris listed for Vermont, and we believe you have photographed the Snowberry Clearwing or Bumblebee Moth, Hemaris diffinis.  The Hummingbird Clearwing is another member of the genus.  The Snowberry Clearwing is described on The Sphingidae of the Americas as being:  “a very variable species, but almost always the abdomen sports contrasting black and yellow hairs, the ventral surface being quite black. The legs also tend to be quite dark and there is a black mask running across the eye and along the sides of the thorax.” 

Thank you, Daniel! It’s funny because after I sent this submission this morning, I saw a true Hummingbird Clearwing Moth in the same stand of bee balm! It was difficult to get a clear short, but this one is clearly very different than the Snowberry. I checked my photo against those on the site you recommended, and it certainly looks to be the HCM. They are found all along the east coast in way up into Canada.
Thanks, again.
Karen

Hi Karen,
We are happy you mentioned the Bee Balm, a species of
Monarda, one of the best flowers to plant for both pollinating insects like butterflies and diurnal Sphinx Moths as well as real hummingbirds.

Letter 12 – Snowberry Clearwing

 

Ed. Note:  This arrived at our personal email account with a copy to Julian Donahue

Bee Moth?
Location:  Paso Robles, California
May 10, 2014 7:58 AM
we saw this wonderful creature nectaring on california buckeye in paso robles; and believe we have correctly identified it as a bee moth. do you agree?  thank you.
clare.

Yep. Hemaris diffinis (Sphingidae), the Bumblebee Moth or Snowberry Clearwing.
Larvae feed on Caprifoliaceae: snowberry (Symphoricarpos) and honeysuckle (Lonicera). Adults on many nectar sources, including cultivated plants like lilac, hence they are frequently seen by the general public.
Julian Donahue

Snowberry Clearwing
Snowberry Clearwing

Hi Clare,
Thanks for sending your photo of a Snowberry Clearwing.  They have really rapidly beating wings, and if you set your camera to a fast shutter speed, like 1/1000 second, you might be able to freeze the movement of the wings.

Letter 13 – Snowberry Clearwing

 

Subject: Hummingbird Clearwing Moth
Location: Evanston, IL
August 25, 2014 10:47 am
Here is a photo I captured in our school garden one summer about five years ago. Just a few weeks ago I saw two more of these moths in our garden but did not have my camera on me. Don’t think, however, I could get better than this.
Signature: Lynn Hyndman

Snowberry Clearwing
Snowberry Clearwing

Hi Lynn,
We believe you have misidentified this diurnal sphinx moth, and that it is
Hemaris diffinis, the Snowberry Clearwing or Bumblebee Moth, not a Hummingbird Clearwing.  The two species look quite similar as they are in the same genus, but the Snowberry Clearwing is slightly smaller and has black legs, not light legs like the Hummingbird Clearwing.  The Sphingidae of the Americas site has an excellent image with both species for comparison.  Your image is quite nice.

Letter 14 – Snowberry Clearwing

 

Subject: What’s that bug
Location: Staten Island ny
July 17, 2015 7:34 pm
Saw this flying around on plants in home depot
Signature: ??

Diurnal Sphinx
Snowberry Clearwing

This is a diurnal Sphinx Moth in the genus Hemaris, and because of the black legs, we suspect this is the Snowberry Clearwing, Hemaris diffinis, which according to BugGuide, can be identified by:  “forewing clear area lacks partial crossband of dark scales near base; legs black; underside mostly black.”

Letter 15 – Snowberry Clearwing

 

Subject: What is this bug?
Location: Delaware, USA
August 13, 2015 6:27 am
Would like to identify the bug in the attached photo. It was flying around a butterfly bush.
Signature: Pete

Snowberry Clearwing
Snowberry Clearwing

Dear Pete,
This is one of the diurnal Sphinx Moths in the genus
Hemaris, and we believe it is most likely the Snowberry Clearwing, Hemaris diffinis.    According to BugGuide, it can be differentiated from other members of the genus because:  “legs black; underside mostly black.”  The flower looks like an Agapanthus, erroneously called a Lily of the Nile as they are not lilies and they originate in South Africa.

Daniel,
Thank you for the information. The Snowberry Clearwing is about two inches in length. I’ve never observed a flying bug with those markings. And yes that is an Agapanthus which is next to my butterfly bush which the Snowberry Clearwing frequents as well. I was taking photos of a hummingbird when the SC appeared. I looked for it on your site and could not find it there. Do you have it listed? The photo was taken in Delaware.
Again, thank you for the information. I will try to capture additional photos for my collection of insect photos.

Letter 16 – Snowberry Clearwing Caterpillar

 

please identify
Dear Bugman, We love your site. Thanks for all the help you provide for the many of us out there who can’t figure out what we’re looking at even with a bug book in hand!. We found this pretty fellow Sept. 24 strolling on the patio. Can you please identify and tell us what he eats and what his next step will be? Does he go underground? Will he turn into a sphnix moth, whose picture we have included? Thank you.
Mike and Sue DiStefano, Norfolk, VA

Hi Mike and Sue,
We believe this to be the Snowberry Clearwing Moth or Bumblebee Sphinx, Hemaris diffinis. This caterpillar is green but turns burgundy, pink or orange just before pupating. A distinctive feature is the black caudal horn with a yellow base, as your photo indicates. Your moth photo is a Pink Spotted Hawkmoth.

Letter 17 – Snowberry Clearwing Caterpillar

 

caterpillar
Found this fine fellow today in Alamo, Tn. We don’t see a similar one on your GREAT site so please identify.
Beth and Rick

Hi Beth and Rick,
This is a Snowberry Clearwing Caterpillar, Hemaris diffinis. We got two images in a row, the other from Virginia. That one was a burgundy pink color, the color they turn just before pupating.

Letter 18 – Snowberry Clearwing Caterpillar

 

Hemaris diffinus early instar brown caterpillar
I confirmed with Bill Oelke that this is indeed hemaris diffinus. He has put it on his web page, too. But, I thought you might like a photo of it, which confirms that early instars can be in the brown form as well. This was a 1st instar cat. Caterpillar found on lonicera (honeysuckle) Thank you again for your website – I love it!
Susan Johnston
OKC, OK

Hi Susan,
We just posted photos of what we believe to be the final instar of this species, both green and brown. Thank you for contributing an early instar as well.

Letter 19 – Snowberry Clearwing Caterpillar

 

Subject: Hemaris diffinus – Snowberry Clearwing Caterpillar
Location: 44.178265, -77.716784
October 8, 2013 6:06 am
It took a while to find the name of this one, as there aren’t many images that show a brown one. In the end I had to look up the honeysuckle it was feeding on to find it. I saw that you had only one other image of the caterpillar, so now you have two.
Signature: David Wheeler

Snowberry Clearwing Caterpillar
Snowberry Clearwing Caterpillar

Dear David,
Thanks for sending us your photo of a dark Snowberry Clearwing Caterpillar.  We actually have more than one image of the Snowberry Clearwing Caterpillar, but it is great having your dark individual to add to our archives.
  The Sphingidae of Americas site does not picture this dark form so we are copying Bill Oehlke in the event he would like to use your image as well.  BugGuide does have a matching image of an individual feeding on honeysuckle.

Hello,
Not a problem sharing this one. Now I wish I hadn’t used the iPod camera, it is a little blurry.  I remembered after I sent this off that I searched for “honeysuckle.” The darker caterpillar was the one I found, I didn’t scroll far enough down the page to see the other ones.
David

Letter 20 – Snowberry Clearwing Caterpillars

 

Hope your not too busy
Dear Bugman,
I have browsed your wonderful pictures and now know where to look when friends have an insect id they want me to do. I also am known by friends and family as “The Bugman” as I have had an interest in insects since birth. It has been great to see some of the interesting ones I haven’t seen yet on your site. This brings me to my querie. I was recently in my backyard observing a wasp chew up a caterpillar it had paralyzed. It was a caterpillar I had not seen before. I walked closer to the honeysuckle bush (or close relative) that it had been munching on and began to see many others materialize. The largest where 2 inches long and I photographed both color phases that I noticed. I live in Tulsa, Oklahoma and dear fellow colleagues, if you have the time, I would appreciate your assistance. I have a landscape business and if there are some insects you have an interest in photographing out this way let me know I will do my best to send some your way. They are still currently munching away in mid October. Many thanks,
Craig aka The Bugman

Hi Craig,
Thank you for sending your wonderful photos of Snowberry Clearwing Caterpillars, Hemaris diffinis. The adult moth is sometimes called a Bumblebee Moth and the moths are often confused with hummingbirds. Bill Oehlke’s site lists honeysuckle as a food plant.

Letter 21 – Snowberry Clearwing Caterpillars

 

Subject: 3rd and 4th instar Snowberry Clearwing Caterpillars
Location: Southern Illinois
July 25, 2013 10:19 pm
I think these guys are 3rd and 4th instar Snowberry Clearwing caterpillars. Judging from the overall size at about an inch an a half, head-capsule size, and coloration.
Found both of them on the same honeysuckle vine out in the swamp today.
Signature: -Bert

Snowberry Clearwing Caterpillar:  Third Instar
Snowberry Clearwing Caterpillar: Third Instar

Hi Bert,
Thank you for submitting your excellent photos of Snowberry Clearwing Caterpillars for our archives.  It is interesting how caterpillars change their markings and colors as they molt and grow.

Snowberry Clearwing Caterpillar:  Fourth Instar
Snowberry Clearwing Caterpillar: Fourth Instar

Letter 22 – Snowberry Clearwing Moth

 

hello!…Snowberry Clearwing Moth high res photo
I feel like I am spamming you.. sorry! but I just took this pic a few minutes ago, and (though it was a hummingbird) but since its not…. I know its the perfect chameleon type bug for the site. thanks again!
Adam

Hi Adam,
What a wonderful photograph that freezes the rapid flight of the Bumblebee Moth, also known as the Snowberry Clearwing Moth, a day flying sphinx often confused for a hummingbird.

Letter 23 – Snowberry Clearwing Moth

 

Is this a new creature?
January 17, 2010
From 8/15/09 just before sunset. This is Ocean Beach on Fire Island in New York state. It looks like a bee crossed with a shrimp.
Marc MIllman
Ocean Beach. NY

Snowberry Clearwing Moth

Hi Marc,
It appears as though many folks are spending the winter months trying to get identifications for some of the insects in their summer photographs.  This is a Snowberry Clearwing Moth or Bumblebee Moth, Hemaris diffinis, and you may read up on it on Bill Oehlke’s excellent website.

Letter 24 – Snowberry Clearwing Moth

 

Should I be scared of this?
Location: Near Atlanta
June 7, 2011 7:30 pm
I know…it is actually big enough to carry off a small child. We are a bug loving family though and don’t want to harm the good bugs. When this thing gets close though…heebeejeebies!
Signature: Juliette

Snowberry Clearwing Moth

Hi Juliette,
This is a perfectly harmless Sphinx Moth in the family Sphingidae, a group whose members are frequently mistaken for hummingbirds, especially the diurnal species like this member of the genus
Hemaris.  Here is an excellent identifying description on Bill Oehlke’s excellent Sphingidae of the Americas website for the Snowberry Clearwing or Bumblebee Moth,:  “Hemaris diffinis is a very variable species, but almost always the abdomen sports contrasting black and yellow hairs, the ventral surface being quite black. The legs also tend to be quite dark and there is a black mask running across the eye and along the sides of the thorax. The description fits your individual perfectly.

Letter 25 – Snowberry Clearwing Moth

 

What is this?
Location: Central Indiana
July 1, 2011 5:57 am
The bug in the picture was on our Buterfly bush a few days ago. I was trying to landscape around the bush when I saw them. Do we need to be worried about them?
Thanks
Signature: Pete

Snowberry Clearwing

Hi Pete,
Of the three species of diurnal Sphinx Moths in the genus
Hemaris that are listed as ranging in Indiana according to the Sphingidae of the Americas website, we believe this most resembles Hemaris diffinis, the Snowberry Clearwing or Bumblebee Moth.  They are harmless pollinators that are sometimes mistaken for hummingbirds.

Letter 26 – Snowberry Clearwing Moth

 

whazzit?
Location: Virginia
September 9, 2011 7:07 pm
We have not been able to identify this flying insect. It was on our butterfly bush, along with some bumblebees. The season is late summer and we live in Virginia, on the east coast, near the Chesapeake Bay.
The proboscis and the ”furry feet” are most intriguing!
The wings move so quickly that it was difficult to focus. Thank goodness, we don’t know if it is a stinging bug.
Thanks for any information.
Signature: Sallye & Robert

Snowberry Clearwing Moth

Hi Sallye & Robert,
There are three species of diurnal Sphinx Moths in the genus
Hemaris that are found in Virginia, and we believe you have photographed the Bumblebee Moth or Snowberry Clearwing Moth, Hemaris diffinis, based on this description from the Sphingidae of the Americas website:  “Hemaris diffinis is a very variable species, but almost always the abdomen sports contrasting black and yellow hairs, the ventral surface being quite black. The legs also tend to be quite dark and there is a black mask running across the eye and along the sides of the thorax.” 

Letter 27 – Snowberry Clearwing Moth Metamorphosis and Mating

 

caterpillar, pupa, and bumblebee moth pictures
We found a Bumblebee Moth caterpillar on our Honeysuckle vine…

brought it inside to watch it transform and thought you might enjoy the pictures!
Nikki Ogle
Aubrey, Tx

BumbleBee Moth’s Bug Luvin’
I sent pictures of our Bumblebee Moth development… well, I just went to check to see if it was still on the vine… and found a two for one. Two hours after placing the moth on honeysuckle vine, I went to see if it had flown away … instead I was seeing double! After viewing this discovery I’ve surmised that our moth was female … The assumption based on larger size and having not moved from the leaf it was place on. It must have been releasing pheromones? If that is correct … the one facing us in this picture is a happy little male. This is my favorite picture. I’ve attachem more.
Nikki Ogle
Aubrey, Tx

Hi Nikki,
We sure hope you are going to send us the egg photos to complete this awesome life cycle series. Though it is often called the Bumblebee Moth, Hemaris thysbe is most commonly known as the Hummingbird Clearwing Moth or Common Clearwing. according to Bill Oehlke’s awesome site.

Update: (05/29/2007) Snowberries I think
Hello bugman!
So glad that you guys are back. I was just looking an awesome series of shots sent in by one of your readers of the life cycle of some clearwing moths. I do believe they are Hemaris difinnis, the Snowberry Clearwing, and not H. thysbe. I use the same sources as you (namely Bill Oehlke’s website and bugguide, Wagner’s book for caterpillars). On Bill Oehlke’s website, he describes some of the differences, including the color of the legs, which can be seen in the image you have of them mating. Keep up the good work!
Bobby

Hi Bobby,
Thanks for the correction. By the way, we cannot open your photos, but we are very curious to see them.

Letter 28 – Snowberry Clearwing Moth, Summer Form

 

what is this bug
I have attached pics of a flying insect of some sort? Do you
have any clue what it is?
Doug

Hi Doug,
Thanks for the photo of the summer form of the Snowberry Clearwing Moth, Haemorrhagia axillaris, one of the day flying sphinx moths known collectively as Hummingbird Moths. The species is trimorphic, meaning there are three color forms. Your specimen shows the pronounced yellow band on the abdomen.

Letter 29 – Strawberry Crown Moth on Cannabis

 

Subject:  LobsterWasp
Geographic location of the bug:  Western Oregon
Date: 07/03/2019
Time: 11:43 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Found on several cannabis leaves and neighboring foliage.
How you want your letter signed:  DB

Strawberry Crown Moth on Cannabis

Dear DB,
This is one of the Wasp Mimic Moths or Clearwing Moths in the family Sesiidae.  We believe we have identified it as a Strawberry Crown Moth,
Synanthedon bibionipennis, thanks to images on BugGuide.  Were there strawberry plants nearby?  According to BugGuide:  “Larvae bore in the roots near the crown or in the stems near the base of various species in the Rose family (Fragaria, Rosa, Rubus, Potentilla). Considered to be a pest of strawberries. Adults take nectar from many different flowers.”  Since Cannabis is not in the Rose family Rosaceae, we suspect your plant is safe from this Strawberry Crown Moth.

Letter 30 – Two Different Clearwings: Hummingbird Clearwing and Bumblebee Moth

 

Thanks for the website!
We have these funky guys all over our butterfly bush. Your website helped me identify them, thank you! I never had heard of a hummingbird moth before planting the butterfly bush, and the insect is new to all my family and friends too! We live in central NJ. Thought you might enjoy the pictures.
Lisa

Hummingbird Clearwing Bumblebee Moth

Hi Lisa,
It appears you have two different moths here, but in the same genus. They are easily confused. The Hummingbird Moth, Hemaris thysbe, is usually red and olive in coloration. The Bumblebee Moth or Snowberry Clearwing Moth, Hemaris diffinis, is smaller, usually black and yellow, and has black legs.

Letter 31 – Unknown Clearwing Moth from Thailand

 

Unknown moth?
Location: Chiang Mai, Thailand
January 31, 2011 9:29 am
The two different species or male and female of the same species were taken in late January in our dry season at 800 meters. They were photographed at the same small pool on consecutive days at around 1 pm. The pool was formed by a depression in granite rock about 10 feet from a larger pool fed by a small waterfall. The area around is wooded but this spot is in a 75 foot clearing due to rock. I’ve looked everywhere on the web and nothing is even close. I’m guessing Arctiinae. Any suggestions?
Signature: Dave Hutchison

Clearwing Moth from Thailand

Dear Dave,
Though there is a group of Arctiids that mimic wasps, there is another family, Sesiidae, that are also wasp mimics, though the family is collectively known as Clearwings.  There are many species in this family that exhibit marked sexual dimorphism, so much so that males and females look like different species.  Many Sesiids have larvae that are borers in the stems and roots of woody plants.  You can see many examples of North American Sesiids on BugGuide.

Clearwing Moth from Thailand

We are going to do a quick search of the internet to see if we have any luck with this species, but we have a time constraint this morning as we will be closing the offices and not responding to any additional letters while we are at our day job.

Clearwing Moth from Thailand

Letter 32 – Virginia Creeper Clearwing

 

wasp mimic moth?
August 1, 2009
Hello fellow bug-nuts,
I’ve seen this moth on our central MN property several times. Maybe some sort of borer? I can’t ID it, and believe me, I’ve tried. Thanks many times for your terrific site!
Don D
St. Augusta, Central Minnesota

Virginia Creeper Clearwing
Virginia Creeper Clearwing

Hi Don,
Thanksfor the compliment.  This is indeed a Wasp Mimic Moth in the family Sesiidae.  We quickly identified it as the Virginia Creeper Clearwing, Albuna fraxini, on BugGuide.  In addition to Virginia Creeper, the larvae bore into several types of ash trees.

Letter 33 – Wasp Mimic Sesiid from Japan

 

Subject: Wasp?
Location: Tokyo
June 10, 2015 6:25 am
Hello Bugman,
I’ve searching the internet for two hours trying to ID this bug but I can’t find it at all…
I found it in the playground where my 2 year old loves to play everyday but now Im not sure if I should let her play there anymore!
Any help would be greatly appreciated!
Signature: Paula

Clearwing Moth from Japan
Clearwing Moth from Japan

Dear Paula,
Though we have not been able to determine the species, this is a Clearwing Moth in the family Sesiidae, a family with many members that mimic stinging wasps as a defense.  This individual is not pictured in the Clearwing Moths of Japan pdf we located, and it also bears an uncanny resemblance to the female Peach Tree Borer,
Synanthedon exitiosa,  a species that is native to North America and an excellent example of pronounced sexual dimorphism.  We cannot at this time determine if this is a species native to Japan, or if the North American Peach Tree Borer has been accidentally introduced to Japan.  This moth poses no threat to your daughter.

Letter 34 – Western Poplar Clearwing

 

Please help identify
Hello,
I am from Southern Idaho (Jerome) and found these two beautiful insects feasting in my garden (well they aren’t feasting in the picture but they will probably be hungry after) anyway – I don’t know what they are? Horneyts? Flies? Squash Bugs? I didn’t write you right away because I was afraid I would receive a "boy your a dummy" response but I searched and searched and didn’t find this insect on your site. Close, but not exact markings. Can you help? Thank you so much for your time. I know you are very busy! Thank you,
Cindy Flowers

Hi Cindy,
We are going to begin by gently chastising you because we were hurt by your implication that we would call you a dummy when you have a legitimate question. It should be apparent that we answer the same question repeatedly (just look at our Dobsonfly pages) and we have even had to identify many times this month our July Bug of the Month, the Cecropia Moth, despite it being posted at the top of our home page. Your Wasp Mimic Clearwing Moths in the family Sesiidae challenged us. We found two possibilities on BugGuide that did not fully convince us, so we turned to the Moth Photographers Group where Paranthrene robiniae looked correct. Then we returned to BugGuide with that name and located the common name of Western Poplar Clearwing, but not too much in the way of information. We then found an excellent Forest Pest page that profiles your lovely moths because the larvae are borers in the wood of willows and poplars and extreme infestations can be very damaging to trees. Your photo is also quite beautiful and we would have been thrilled to receive it even if this wasn’t a new species for our site.

Letter 35 – Western Poplar Clearwing

 

Please help identify
Hello,
I am from Southern Idaho (Jerome) and found these two beautiful insects feasting in my garden (well they aren’t feasting in the picture but they will probably be hungry after) anyway – I don’t know what they are? Horneyts? Flies? Squash Bugs? I didn’t write you right away because I was afraid I would receive a "boy your a dummy" response but I searched and searched and didn’t find this insect on your site. Close, but not exact markings. Can you help? Thank you so much for your time. I know you are very busy! Thank you,
Cindy Flowers

Hi Cindy,
We are going to begin by gently chastising you because we were hurt by your implication that we would call you a dummy when you have a legitimate question. It should be apparent that we answer the same question repeatedly (just look at our Dobsonfly pages) and we have even had to identify many times this month our July Bug of the Month, the Cecropia Moth, despite it being posted at the top of our home page. Your Wasp Mimic Clearwing Moths in the family Sesiidae challenged us. We found two possibilities on BugGuide that did not fully convince us, so we turned to the Moth Photographers Group where Paranthrene robiniae looked promising. Then we returned to BugGuide with that name and located the common name of Western Poplar Clearwing, but not too much in the way of information. We then found an excellent Forest Pest page that profiles your lovely moths because the larvae are borers in the wood of willows and poplars and extreme infestations can be very damaging to trees. Your photo is also quite beautiful and we would have been thrilled to receive it even if this wasn’t a new species for our site.

Letter 36 – Western Poplar Clearwing

 

Subject: Beautiful bug, what is it
Location: Western Washington state
June 9, 2017 7:55 pm
This bug was found in western Washington state. Would like to know what it is.
Signature: Mike Keeney

Western Poplar Clearwing

Dear Mike,
Your moth, a Western Poplar Clearwing,
Paranthrene robiniae, is a member of a family of moths that includes numerous individuals that are very effective wasp mimics, which affords them a degree of protection against predators.  You can verify our identification by comparing your image to images on the Moth Photographers Group and on BugGuide.  According to BugGuide:  “colored almost exactly like a paper wasp. Mostly yellow, first three abdominal segments black. Head is black, with yellow facial scales. FW orange brown with darker veins; HW clear with a deep yellow discal mark, fringed with dark brown scales. Antennae of males are bipectinate, simple in females.”   It should be noted that there is considerable variation in the abdominal markings of individuals pictured online.

Authors

    by
  • 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.

  • 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.

13 thoughts on “Snowberry Clearwing: Essential Facts and Tips”

  1. It is a Squash Vine Borer, Melittia cucurbitae.
    They emerge it Michigan when the milkweed (the same as in the picture) is in bloom and are very common as many people have gardens with squash plants.

    Reply
  2. It’s a strange and pleasant serendipity that I had the pleasure of spotting a Snowberry Clearwing Moth enjoying my Ham and Eggs Lantana on the same day this picture was posted. Unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera.

    Reply
    • Thanks for hunting our archives for this Rexnatus. Though we are back in the office and trying to catch up on the scads of identification requests we have received, our gainful employment demands are very high right now and they often prevent us from being able to devote more time to What’s That Bug? which is a labor of love. We can tell you that Arctiidae has been demoted to the subfamily Arctiinae of Erebidae.

      Reply
  3. Have one of these here in Connecticut! Just took a few shots which came out real nice. Are they supposed to be this far north? Ours looks a bit bigger than the local bumblebee, and about same size as our hummingbirds!
    Have not posted pics on flickr yet, but soon.

    Reply
  4. Have one of these here in Connecticut! Just took a few shots which came out real nice. Are they supposed to be this far north? Ours looks a bit bigger than the local bumblebee, and about same size as our hummingbirds!
    Have not posted pics on flickr yet, but soon.

    Reply
  5. We live in the southern portion of Maine, and we have found a Snowberry Clearwing caterpillar feeding on our honeysuckle. Question we have is do they destroy the plant, and how long is their feeding cycle?

    Reply
    • A single caterpillar will eat leaves, but pose no threat to the plant. Numerous caterpillars might defoliate the plant, but the leaves should grow back with no permanent harm to the plant. The caterpillar stage lasts approximately four to six weeks. We do not offer extermination advice.

      Reply

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