Thursday, September 02, 2010

Carolina Sphinx Moths


The other night, just at dusk, my husband and boys called me outside to the porch.  They were witnessing what at first they thought to be birds drinking from our angel trumpet flowers.  I dashed outside and there they were, four or five of them, flitting from flower to flower.  They were the size of hummingbirds but when one landed briefly on my 5 year old, we got to see up close that they were moths.  It wasn't until I snapped a few photos and came inside to look that we could really see what kind they were. 

These are Carolina Sphinx moths, members of the Hawk Moth family.  Its caterpillar is known as the tobacco hornworm and though I don't think we have tobacco growing around here, we certainly have plenty of nightshade, which they also enjoy. 

look at that tongue! click on the photo to see it better

The moths have long "tongues" that they use to lap nectar from flowers.  From what I've read, the moths are drawn to flowers that open at night, are white or pale, have a sweet fragrance, a horizontal to pendant posture, abundant sucrose-rich nectar, and a long nectar tube.  I guess the angel trumpets fit the bill.  As we stood there watching, the perfume of the flowers was hanging in the air and it was delicious.  I wished for a moment that I was a moth. 

Hawk moths insert their tongues, and sometimes their whole bodies, into the flowers to collect nectar.


The next morning we spotted two of them on the barn, perhaps resting after their heavy night of drinking, and we moved them to the garden out of the reach of the chickens.

what big eyes you have...
They humored us for a moment, just long enough to have a photo taken, and then they flew off. 

They've come back to the angel trumpets for the past few nights as they begin to open for the night, and we all gather on the porch above them to watch.  You can see them dipping their long tongues into the flowers like kids dipping straws into sodas.  It's really incredible, and something I've never witnessed before this.  I'm really glad we all got to see it.

Nature is just endlessly fascinating, isn't it?

11 comments:

Amanda said...

coooooooool! those are giant moths!

Mel said...

Oooh, they are magnificent. Your photos are great too! I've never captured them with the tongue out. We have a lot of clearwing hummingbird moths here, who love the hosta blossoms. I've never held a live one, so I'm a wee bit jealous! Nature is amazing, thanks for sharing.

Lisa said...

Isn't he gorgeous! & that tongue wow!~ I just recently heard of hummingbird moths .. I need to look them up. I agree with you ~ examining creation helps us put our lives in to prospective.

silver.work said...

Okay, THESE behemoths we get by the truckload. Never the gorgeous Luna moths that visit your neck of the woods.

Kar said...

We have something like that here. But ours are more brown. We saw them on the butterfly bush and the girls thought they were little hummingbirds. They were bummed when they noticed they were moths. Until they saw the long tongues. And then they were cool!

joanie said...

Those are great pictures Lisa. Great to capture them to be able to take a peek. Those tongues are amazing.

noricum said...

Neato!

KarenB said...

It is fascinating and you have a way of capturing it oh so well!

Margie Oomen said...

that tongue is just amazing
and to see it in action must be phenomenal

Brizel Handcrafts said...

Are they part of the same family as Hummingbird Moths ?

Thanks for a wonderful post !

Anonymous said...

One of those buggers flew into my apartment last summer. Freaked out the cat, but the moth went back outside and landed in my third floor patio garden. I was able to snap a photo of this unusual friend perched on my hand as well. I am glad to finally find out what the flying wonder is called. Thanks.

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