Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted)

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This is a lesson in observation. This is a North American animal. I know what this is (and I knew as soon as I saw the still image on the video) but I am asking you: what is this; hummingbird or insect? And for a bonus, can you tell me the species?

This is a Common Clearwing, also known as the Hummingbird Clearwing Moth, Hemaris thysbe.


  1. #1 stripey_cat
    October 15, 2009

    It’s one of those famous, New World six-legged birds. (No idea about the species, or even if it’s actually a fly or some other sort of insect: my only encounter with anything similar was in France where it was misidentified by the local I asked as a humming-bird!)

  2. #2 Hai~Ren
    October 15, 2009

    I’m not North American, but the antennae are a dead giveaway. Some sort of hawk moth?

  3. #3 Tom
    October 15, 2009

    My guess is that it’s a moth.

    Macroglossum stellatarum, possibly.

  4. #4 llewelly
    October 15, 2009

    It has clear wings, antenna, and “tailfeather”-like things hanging off the end of its abdomen. Green “body fur”. I guess hummingbird clearwing moth, Hemaris thysbe.

  5. #5 jimspice
    October 15, 2009

    Cause it’s just a hummingbird moth
    Who’s acting like a bird that thinks it’s a bee

    –They Might Be Giants

  6. #6 Adrian
    October 15, 2009

    It’s called a Hummingbird Hawkmoth here in the UK ( Macroglossum stellatarum). Folklore says that it is a messenger of good tidings.

  7. #7 arby
    October 15, 2009

    I have a friend who once told me that he “saw a baby hummingbird” on the flowers. I said “No you didn’t.” He got angry, “Who are you to tell me what I saw?!!” I still bring up the “baby hummingbird” at every available opportunity. rb

  8. #8 Ruthie
    October 15, 2009

    It does look like the Hummingbird Clearwing to me, a Hawk or Sphynx Moth of the US.

  9. #9 RyanR
    October 15, 2009

    That looks like a Hummingbird Moth,(macroglossum stellatarum). If I’m right, then I give all the credit to They Might Be Giants: Bee of the Bird of the Moth. Catchy tune.

  10. #10 Sheri Williamson
    October 15, 2009

    The Hummingbird Clearwing, Hemaris thysbe, and Snowberry Clearwing, Hemaris diffinis, are very similar, but according to thysbe always has pale legs. This one has pale legs, so I’m going with Hummingbird Clearwing.

  11. #11 David
    October 15, 2009

    Definitely from the family Sphingidae but can’t possibly be the Hummingbird Hawk-moth (Macroglossum stellatarum) which is confined to Europe, North Africa, and Asia, however the genus Hemaris is represented in North America by four species (Hemaris are generally called Clearwing Moths or Hummingbird Moths in the US, and Bee Hawk-Moths in Britain) and so this is the Hummingbird clearwing, Hemaris thysbe– olive thorax, pale area below the wing junctures, solid burgundy-brown abdomen (dorsally and ventrally), wings mostly clear with reddish brown borders and dark scaling along the veins… feeding on a zonal cultivar of Pelargonium x hortorum (geranium)

  12. #12 Ivan Cheah
    October 19, 2009

    Finally I get to know what this insect is. It has been visiting my garden very often. Couldn’t manage to take photo of it.Every time I try to take picture of it, I ended up frustrated.It fly like a miniature super sonic. I and my son, Benjamin keep thinking it was a baby Hummingbird.

  13. #13 Suzy
    April 10, 2010

    I have a hummingbird-like insect in my garden that hums, hovers but is not a hummingbird moth. It has three or four yellow and black rings around the tail section, and a large, sharp stinger-like protrusion at the base of this section.

    Does anyone know what this bug is?

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