TOPEKA (KSNT) – If you’ve spent time outside this spring, you might have noticed a insect that looks very similar to a hummingbird flying around.
KSNT 27 News spoke with Raymond Cloyd, Professor at the Entomology Department at Kansas State University, to explain this hummingbird doppelganger. The white-lined sphinx, also known as the hummingbird moth, follows a lot of the same behaviors seen in hummingbirds, such as hovering over flowers and drinking nectar. They also come in at around the same size which is 3.5 inches in length.
“They’re after the nectar in the flowers for energy,” Cloyd said.
Plants that the bugs feed on include cardinal flowers, columbine, evening primrose, honeysuckle, penstemon, petunia and phlox. Hummingbirds share some of the same tastes as the white-lined sphinx.
The moths are a common sight in Kansas, according to Cloyd. They emerge from the ground in the spring to begin feeding and pollinating flowers. Females will lay up to 100 eggs on plant leaves which will grow into caterpillars. The larvae feed on weeds before they burrow into the soil and enter their chrysalis stage, repeating the cycle of life.
In their caterpillar state, the moths can grow up to 3.5 inches in length and vary in color with many appearing light green with black stripes along with yellow and orange spots, according to Cloyd. Adult moths have green-brown winds and bodies with white stripes. The hind wings are a dark-brown in color and there is a large pink band extending across each wing.
“I don’t think they’re a pest. I consider them to be just a part of the ecosystem,” Cloyd said. “They’re interesting because people can see them very visually.”
Cloyd also emphasized that using pesticides meant to eliminate other caterpillars could be harmful to the moths. If you want to see the white-lined sphinx in your garden, consider planting some of the plant species listed above.