The Snowberry Clearwing is a member of the Sphinx Moths (AKA Hawk Moths). Its name comes from the fact that one of this species important larval foods is the Snowberry plant. Sphinx moths are important pollinators and are often mistakenly identified as Hummingbirds or Bumble Bees due to their size and their habits of visiting flowers. Most Sphinx Moths are active nocturnally or at dawn and dusk, but the Snowberry Clearwing is diurnal. One Missouri favorite, the Missouri Evening Primrose of glade habitats, shares an obligate pollination mutualism with a species of Hawk Moth, meaning that no other animal can provide pollination services for this plant. This is a photography project someday in the future!
The caterpillars of these moths are known as “hornworms”, and they are just as fascinating as the adults. Included in this group is the Tobacco Hornworm, which is a notorious pest on tomato plants. A useful natural controller of hornworms are the parasitoid braconid wasps that lay their eggs on the developing moth and whose larvae then eat the caterpillar from the inside out.
Next time you are in the garden, take a closer look at that bumblebee or hummingbird. It might not be what you assume it to be!
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