In the garden this afternoon as I was looking for tomatoes, I spotted this little insect flitting around the zinnias. This is a hummingbird moth. I believe it is Hemaris diffinis, the Snowberry Clearwing. Sometimes called hawkmoths, these insects fly like hummingbirds, flapping their wings so fast they make a hum. The moth has a very long proboscis that it uses to probe deep into flowers for nectar. At around an inch long, the moth is impressive as it moves quickly between flowers.
The caterpillars feed on many wild plants including honeysuckle and snowberry, hence the name. We have a good supply of wild invasive honeysuckle on the farm so there is plenty of food for moths. The caterpillars are green with a horn on their back ends. The hummingbird moth is related to the tomato hornworm hawkmoth.
Here in Maine the hummingbird moth has just one generation and is most prevalent in the late summer. The Snowberry Clearwing is less abundant in our area than the more showy Hummingbird Clearwing which is a reddish color with black bands. They are called Clearwing because the scales on their wings are lost, worn away as they flap so rapidly.
The hummingbird moth has a rather thick body and a broad flat tail that it can spread to stabilize itself in flight or when it feeds. The moth did not alight on any blooms while I watched. It searched for and drank nectar while hovering. After carefully probing all the zinnias, the moth moved over to explore the yellow blooms of the Jerusalem artichokes.