I mentioned Luna moths in my previous post. But that wasn’t right! I thought perhaps it wasn’t quite right, but I couldn’t remember the correct name. Luckily for me, Google knew what I meant when I asked it about “moths that look like hummingbirds.”
What I’ve seen around New Mexico—in my yard, and in the flower gardens at the Santa Fe Opera— is one of these. They’re called hummingbird moths because they really, really look like hummingbirds at first glance.
There are some cool videos online.
If you watch this one closely enough, you can actually see the moth’s tongue furling and unfurling as it visits each flower. It’s very evident in this video. It’s so disgusting it’s wonderful. This video is interesting because it demonstates how quiet these moths can be, as distinct from hummingbirds. The hummers I’m familiar with, anyway, are actually pretty noisy. They trill when they’re zipping to and fro, and (unsurprisingly) hum rather loudly when they’re hovering. But that moth… it’s like a stealth hummingbird.
The first time I saw one of these moths (I’m told it was a sphinx moth) I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what I was seeing. It was at dusk, so it was a little hard to see clearly as the light faded. But it was something about the size of a hummingbird, and it was hovering in the flowers just like the hummingbirds do. But it was silent… and I could see something that sure looked like a tongue flicking in and out. I never stopped to think it might have been an insect until I described it to somebody else later.
“Moth,” they said.
“No, no,” I said. “This was about the size of a hummingbird. I mean, big. And it hovered.”
“No, it hovered like a hummingbird. And it was about the size of one, too. But it was quiet. It was way too cool to be an insect.”
“Did it have a tongue?”
“Yeah, moths have those.”