Snowberry clearwing

Hemaris diffinis

Quick Facts

  • Species

    Native

  • Size

    One to 1.5 inches

  • Habitat

    Adults can live in a range of habitats, including meadows, gardens and backyards. Unlike most other sphinx moths, the snowberry clearwing is active during the day.

  • Range

    The snowberry clearwing can be found across the eastern United States, including throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed. 

  • Diet

    Nectar

  • Status

    Stable

The snowberry clearwing is a type of hummingbird moth that can be found throughout the Chesapeake Bay region. It is a pollinator that hovers in front of flowers to drink nectar.

Appearance

The snowberry clearwing has a stocky body about one to 1.5 inches in length. It has a broad, furry, yellow thorax and a black body with reddish-brown wings covered in scales. They often lose these scales, which gives their wings a transparent appearance—hence the name clearwing. It can be distinguished from other hummingbird moths by its black legs and the black band along the side of its thorax. 

Feeding

When feeding from a flower, the snowberry clearwing uses a proboscis: a straw-like tongue that unfurls from underneath its chin, allowing it to reach nectar from deep inside a flower where other insects cannot reach. It hovers in front of the flower rather than landing on it. They don’t rely on a specific plant for their nectar—rather, they feed from a variety of flowers. 

Predators

The snowberry clearwing’s yellow and black coloration mimics bumblebees. This mimicry helps fool potential predators into thinking the clearwing might sting.

Flight

Snowberry clearwings can look like hummingbirds in flight. Their rapid wingbeats allow them to hover in front of flowers and cause a similar humming sound.

Reproduction and Life Cycle

Snowberry clearwings lay their eggs on plants that their larvae can eat. The eggs hatch into caterpillars, which are yellow-green to reddish-brown with large black spots along the sides and a black spiky horn on its rear. Caterpillars make their cocoons on the ground in leaf litter. They pupate throughout the winter months and emerge in late spring.

Did You Know?

  • The snowberry clearwing is sometimes known as the flying lobster moth due to its strange appearance.
  • The snowberry clearwing takes its name from the snowberry plant, a deciduous shrub in the honeysuckle family. As a caterpillar, the clearwing is especially fond of the snowberry, snacking on its leaves and using it as a host when constructing its cocoon.
  • Hummingbird moths like the snowberry clearwing are members of the sphinx moth family.

Sources and Additional Information

Quick Facts

  • Species

    Native

  • Size

    One to 1.5 inches

  • Habitat

    Adults can live in a range of habitats, including meadows, gardens and backyards. Unlike most other sphinx moths, the snowberry clearwing is active during the day.

  • Range

    The snowberry clearwing can be found across the eastern United States, including throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed. 

  • Diet

    Nectar

  • Status

    Stable