Raising Hummingbird Moth

molanic(Zone 5 IL)August 16, 2011

After stalking a hummingbird moth around the yard I was able to catch her laying an egg on my arrowwood viburnum that I snatched up to raise. All I have raised up to this point is monarchs and black swallowtails, so this was pretty exciting for me. I think it is Hemaris thysbe.

I ripped up and crumpled up some newspaper and paper towels and put them in the bottom of the container. It looks like it crawled in there yesterday or the day before and purged because there is some brown liquid on the paper towel and it is like glued shut in there. I tried to take a peek and can still see the green body, but I don't want to disturb it too much. How long does it take to pupate typically? Also will it eclose this year and should I peel back the paper towel at some point? I did overwinter 3 black swallowtails last year in a clear rubbermaid container in the unheated garage. Would that work for these guys if they decide to overwinter?

Here are a couple of pics from the last two instars I think.

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mary_littlerockar(8a-7b mid Arkansas)

Oh my goodness, how exciting. Thank you so much for sharing your photos. I don't know anything about raising these little guys but hopefully someone pops in to answer your questions and we can all learn more about them. I have had a hummingbird moth visit my small garden to nectar but I'd no idea what their larva looked like nor what they used as a host plant. The one that I see regularly has the gold bands on it's little body and spreads it's tail feathers out when it flys. I keep thinking he's preparing for a crash landing!

Please keep us posted on your progress.


    Bookmark   August 16, 2011 at 12:17PM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

Congrats, congrats on your wonderful find!
I've never raised hummingbird moths, but here's a link with much info.


Here is a link that might be useful: Hemaris thysbe

    Bookmark   August 16, 2011 at 12:53PM
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The little Hemaris larvae don't burrow into the ground as do most other hornworms. Instead, they pupate in the leaf litter under their host plants. Substituting torn pieces of paper towels to simulate leaves may be helpful. They even stitch some loosely together, with silk. You can ensure diapause by placing the pupae in a jar in the fridge. This keeps them from freezing, yet lets them stay cool. Just be sure to periodically mist the medium [shredded paper towels in your case] and do NOT set out, until their host plant is foliated, so the moths will have something to lay eggs on.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2011 at 3:36PM
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Cool! I planted some coral honeysuckles this year, and I can't wait to get my first cats on it. Best of luck!

    Bookmark   August 16, 2011 at 9:32PM
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I've raised many, many Hemaris diffinis, similar to H. thysbe. They are very easy to raise. I agree they probably overwinter in your area. To overwinter, I put them in a container, like a Glad container, with shredded paper towels. Once a month or so, I took them out and dipped them in cool water, misted the paper towels slightly and put them back in the fridge in the veggie compartment. When spring arrived and the days were consistently in the 70s and nights at least in the 50s to 60s, I took them outside, put them in a taller container that would hold something like a few wooden skewers so they could climb up on them to unfold and dry their wings when they emerge.

They are lovely little moths, and when they first emerge, they are inactive for a few hours, allowing them to be photographed easily.

Here's a link to Bill Oehlke's great info page on H. thysbe.


Here is a link that might be useful: Hemaris thysbe aka Hummingbird Clearwing Moth

    Bookmark   August 17, 2011 at 8:06AM
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molanic(Zone 5 IL)

Thanks everyone for the great info! At what point should I put it in the fridge? Do you wait until it starts to get cool outside, or do it early to make sure it doesn't eclose this year. Also, here in the Zone 5 Chicagoland area will most butterflies and moths that can overwinter as pupae AND end up pupating in August.... tend to overwinter?

I was actually pleasantly surprised that all three of my black swallowtails overwintered well in the garage because I know sometimes they don't make it. They had pupated in August too.

I may have to go searching for more eggs to increase my chances for success. I didn't even know that viburnums were their host plants. I just saw one spending a lot of time by it even though there were no flowers. I followed it and saw it touching its rear to the leaves, but didn't see any eggs on the first few leaves it touched. Must have been misfires :) Then when it finally did lay an egg I got all excited and searched the rest of the plant but couldn't find any more eggs. The egg was on the top of the leaf and wasn't as easy to see as a monarch egg. It was kind of translucent looking.

I will try to get pictures of the pupa... and the adult next spring if all goes well!

    Bookmark   August 18, 2011 at 10:21AM
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Viburnums, honeysuckles (preferably the native varieties, like Lonicera sempervirens and flava-I have L. flava), and Snowberry (Symphoricarpus species). You could definitely grow the Snowberry shrub because it does best in zones 3-7. I am in 7 but it might not like our heat, so I have honeysuckles instead.

I think I put mine in the fridge when the temps started to dip into the 40s at night. About the same temp as the fridge.

I don't actually know which butterflies, other than the Black Swallowtail, overwinter. Maybe someone else has input on that.


    Bookmark   August 18, 2011 at 10:31AM
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Hemaris will eat the Japanese honeysuckle with no problem. I used to find H. diffinus on honeysuckle all the time, when I was little. My very first cat rearing project, too!

    Bookmark   August 18, 2011 at 6:33PM
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molanic(Zone 5 IL)

Just an update with some more pics. I carefully opened the paper towel to get a picture of the pupa which is quite pretty I think.

I was also able to find 4 more eggs that I assume are Hemaris thysbe as well. I have been seeing both H. thysbe and H. diffinis in the yard regularly now. I think they both use viburnum and I assume the eggs look similar, so I will have to wait and see what they are.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2011 at 5:41PM
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Kind of rare to see sphinx eggs on the top side of leaves, too. The forest I live in, supports both Hemaris thysbe and H. diffinis. To me, H. diffinis has the prettier larva, too.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2011 at 9:09PM
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molanic(Zone 5 IL)

It is a good thing I left my container with this little guy in it near my other ones that I still have to check on daily! I saw a little something near the bottom of the container, and when I opened it up I saw it looking up at me from under the paper towels.

I had put a stick in there, but it chose to hang from one of the crumpled up paper towels. I helped it up onto the stick so I could get some pictures.

What a cutie!

    Bookmark   September 2, 2011 at 11:37AM
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WOW, FANTASTIC photos! Definitely a beauty; congratulations!!

    Bookmark   September 2, 2011 at 2:54PM
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Gorgeous little moth!

    Bookmark   September 2, 2011 at 10:33PM
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terrene(5b MA)

Great photos Molanic! So cool. I have Viburnums, native and non-native Lonicera, and lots of Hummingbird moths in the gardens (they especially love Monarda). Next year I'll have to watch more closely and look for eggs!

    Bookmark   September 3, 2011 at 8:35AM
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Color scheme is somewhat like that of the male Lady Amherst's pheasant!

    Bookmark   September 3, 2011 at 12:04PM
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I had no idea the hummingbird moth was that striking. Lovely photos.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2011 at 1:06PM
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roper2008 (7b)(7b)

That's pretty cool. Last year I saw a hummingbird moth in
my garden. I need to grow some viburnums.

There's one that looks like a bumblebee and flies during the
day. Does any one know about that one and host plants.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2011 at 9:43PM
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PKponder TX(7b)

hi Roper2008. I had one a few years ago that was identified as an Aellopos species of Sphingidae, possibly a Titan which is rare but not unknown in my area of Texas.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2011 at 12:27PM
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Roper, the bumblebee moth is Hemaris diffinis. It has to mimic something the birds will not bother. many may think it's a bee, but bees light, while hawkmoths hover.
Their food is Japanese honeysuckle [Lonicera japonica], American beauty berry and other viburnums.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2011 at 4:10PM
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molanic(Zone 5 IL)

Update...I kept the three pupae in the fridge in a gladware container with some tiny holes in the lid and damp paper towels over the winter. Once every few weeks I took it out to put in fresh damp paper towels and run some cool water over the pupae. On 5/16 I took them out of the fridge and put them in a larger container with some sticks to crawl up. Yesterday 5/29 the first two emerged, and I expect the third to appear in the next day or two. Here is one of the cuties and the empty cases which I think are so neat. I like playing with the "accordian" like ends :) I hope to find some more eggs this year because they sure are fun to raise.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2012 at 11:28AM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

What fantastic pictures! I've never found a hummingbird moth caterpillar, even though they show up here fairly often, nectaring in the day time on various plants in my garden. They're one of my very favorite moths!


    Bookmark   May 30, 2012 at 11:37AM
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Thank you so much for posting this (I joined just to thank you... now I will ramble). I had sent out a facebook plea to friends who might get a hornworm to let me know. finally, Aug 31 2012 some one contacted me to get one off their tomato, and it was this.close.to.pupating. I have it in a large enclosure in the yard. it has burrowed into a large pot (two feet deep) not sure he will over winter or not. how long from burrowing to emergence was it? I figure two weeks or so, so maybe this guy will emerge before winter.

    Bookmark   August 31, 2012 at 9:24PM
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molanic(Zone 5 IL)

If the caterpillar you got was eating tomato plants, then it is a different species than the ones I raised. They are both commonly known as hummingbird moths though. I believe what you may have is the tomato hornworm. I put a link to the wikipedia page below. The one I raised was Hemaris thysbe and ate viburnum shrubs. It pupates in the leaf litter on the soil surface without burrowing into the soil, and emerged in about 2 weeks in late summer.

I have not raised tomato hornworms yet, but it looks like they burrow into the soil and take about 2 weeks to emerge as well in summer...but may overwinter if it is too late this year.

If it doesn't emerge this year, you may want to put it in the fridge to protect it over the winter. I think above ground containers will not stay as warm as the ground either, but I don't know how much cold they can take. I think there are people on this forum that have raised them and would have more information for you if you posted a new topic.

Good luck and I hope it emerges this year for you.

Here is a link that might be useful: tomato hornworm

    Bookmark   September 1, 2012 at 12:22AM
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Keeping the pupae out of the sun, occasionally hydrate it by bathing it in cool water will help. Like Molanic, I often keep mine in the fridge in a Glad container on paper towel and take it out once a month or so to give it a bath. It is essential to keep them somewhat hydrated in order to avoid dessication. When day and night temps are warmer in later spring/early summer, bring them outdoors in a container with air holes and some sticks they can climb onto when they emerge. They have to hang from the sticks for some time to dry and inflate their wings. This is a good time to get photos of them, too.

I only get Hemaris diffinus - Snowberry Clearwing, and their favorite food in my yard is my yellow Honeysuckle. I have Japanese purpurea, but have never found them on this. Another excellent host plant to check is Virginia Creeper. Numerous sphinx moths use it as a larval host, like Eumorpha achemon (Achemon sphinx), Eumorpha pandorus (Pandora sphinx), Darapsis myron (Virginia Creeper sphinx), Amphion floridensis (Nessus sphinx), Deidamis inacriptum (Lettered sphinx), Hyles lineata (White-lined sphinx), and Specodina abbottii (Abbott's sphinx), to name a few.

I have raised the first 4 named above, and perhaps one day, I'll find a few others.

Good luck and have fun!


    Bookmark   September 2, 2012 at 8:27AM
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