What IS this weird pollinating... thing?

I've been trying to get some xeriscaping established this summer, and I've been very pleased with the plants that are growing. This one, Ceratostigma plumbaginoides, is supposed to become a groundcover, and it's spreading quite well. But with the flowers have come some interesting pollinating... things... that I can't identify.

i-9bc561903248ba2c261db00ede80312c-weird pollinating moth thing.jpg

The leaves in the picture are about a centimeter or two across, so that thing is pretty big. It moves like a hummingbird, hovering in place and then zipping to another flower. (In fact, when my kid was buzzed by one recently, he swore it had been a hummingbird.) It's got a long proboscis... thing... and antennae. My guess was some kind of a moth, but I've never seen anything like it.

I've seen it a number of times in the evening, but that's when we're out watering. I don't know if it pollinates during the day or not.

Whatever it is, it's cool, and I'm happy to have it hanging out in my garden.

(Photo credit: my other half.)

[Edit: my other half googled "bug that looks like a hummingbird" and found this: white-lined sphinx moth, aka "hummingbird moth". So I guess he didn't have to ask me to put the picture on the blog after all...]

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It's a hawk moth! I love them so, and miss them since we no longer live in Colorado. I think it's Hiles lineata, the white-lined sphinx moth -- but I am not a qualified entomologist, so I will defer to practically anyone else's expert judgment...

that is a hawkmoth, also known as a sphinx moth. this particular specimen is a White-lined sphinx (Hyles lineata).

I'd call it a "hummingbird moth" because one day I was in the vacant lot next door and there was a "Weekly Reader" magazine laying there with an article about them. When I looked up from the magazine, there was one right there pollinating a flower. That was the first and last time I'd ever seen one or read about one until now.

By Don in Rochester MN (not verified) on 21 Aug 2009 #permalink

I only found one match in my butterfly book from 1983. If they are indeed the same, then the name is Celerio lineata, one of the few kinds of butterflies that occur almost world-wide. But I have to admit I am totally untrained with identifying any kind of insects.

Grrlscientist has it. I confirm her id.

Hummingbird moth of some type. They're amazing to watch - just slightly smaller than female hummingbirds, their flight is an almost perfect match (even hovering!).

Aren't these amazing? I remember the first time I saw a hummingbird moth (not the white-line sphinx moth you saw, but a related variety). I was VERY disappointed when I realized it wasn't a real hummingbird.

This is probably what I saw, and as you see it looks very much like a Ruby-throated hummingbird: http://www.silkmoths.bizland.com/hthysbe.htm .

Wow! What a neat moth!

Sphinx moths are common on Colorado's front range. As visitors to the flower garden, they are lovely.

But before you get too enthusiastic about how lovely they are, you need to know that they start out life in the larval stage as tomato hornworms, which can get up to 4 inches or so long and are major munchers of tomato, potato and pepper plants.