White-lined Sphinx Moth (Hyles lineata)

White-lined Sphinx Moths (Hyles lineata) at Great Sand Dunes National Park

White-lined Sphinx Moth (Hyles lineata)
A White-lined Sphinx Moth (Hyles lineata) at Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado, USA. September 18, 2010.

A couple of years ago I somehow managed to see sphinx moths for the first time at Great Sand Dunes National Park. How I managed to go the previous twenty-odd years of my life without ever noticing giant day-flying moths that look and act like hummingbirds, I am not sure.

These White-lined Sphinx Moths (Hyles lineata) were busily nectaring at a luxuriant patch of rabbitbrush–like milkweed, a buffet for all kinds of interesting insects. You could actually hear their wingbeats.

I took some very amateurish video to try to capture some of the experience. Sadly, between the very low frame rate and the compression, it doesn’t even come close to doing these amazing moths justice.

The slowed-down clip at the end does show something interesting, however. Remember when I said that a distinction between butterflies and moths is that the fore- and hindwings of moths are hooked together? In slow motion you can see how the wings work as a unit, rather than functioning separately as in butterflies.

This post is for National Moth Week, July 23-29, 2012.

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