Saturday, September 25, 2010

Oops...

THE BIG THING:  Well, on Thursday, Iza was talking about our hummingbird moth being the adult form of the Tomato Hornworm.  She said that because I told her that.  I told her that because that's what the staff at a local plant nursery told me when I spotted one there.

Guess what?  They were wrong!  I only discovered that today when I idly Googled Tomato Hornworms.  What caught my eye was the adult wingspan being 4-5 inches.  Our little guys only have 2 inch wings.  So I started researching.

It turns out there are 1,200 types of "hummingbird moths".  The adult of the Tomato Hornworm looks like this...


Our little guys look like this...

I couldn't find a picture that looked exactly like ours.  The Snowberry Clearwing (Hemaris diffinis) seemed very close though.  The correct wingspan size, general coloration, and it's one of the few "hummingbird moths" with clear wings. 
 
But our guys don't have the yellow band at the bottom and the yellow on the back is patchy.  So I started looking for more info on them.  FINALLY, I found this description:

"Identification: Adults are quite variable in appearance; Bumblebee mimic. The thorax is golden or olive-golden in color, abdomen is black dorsally with 1-2 segments just prior to terminal end being yellow to various extent, while black ventrally. H. diffinis is the only eastern species to exhibit blue abdominal tufts on the first black segment in some freshly emerged specimens. Wings mostly clear with reddish brown terminal borders and dark scaling along veins. While wing maculation is too variable to be 100% diagnostic, diffinis typically has very thin terminal borders and the discal cell is elongate and without scales. However, diffinis can always be distinguished from gracilis and thysbe by two diagnostic characteristics: 1) the black band that crosses the eye and travels down the lateral side of the thorax; 2) diffinis always has black legs."

So I conclude that our guys are Snowberrry Clearwings.

The good news is that their caterpillars eat snowberry shrub and honeysuckle leaves.  I have plenty of honeysuckle.   And they don't eat tomato leaves!

Interestingly, I have on occasion found tomato hornworm caterpillars, but I have never seen an adult.  I watch the hummingbirds around the yard carefully, and I'm pretty sure I would have noticed the difference.

Iza felt bad for passing along bad information, so I promised her I would clear her good name...  :)

15 comments:

Katnip Lounge said...

Well, that is very interesting. I would have never guessed there were so many species! Who woulda thunk that the plant nursery staff would be wrong and the innernets would be right...there's one for the books.
Iza, you are totally absolved from the misinformation...as if anything is ever your fault!
heh heh.

AFSS said...

Well with 1,200 types it is purrfectly understandable about the confusion, we enjoyed reading all abouts them. While we don't have the ones with clear wings here we do have the Tomato Hornworm Moth. We thinks it ate all Daddy's tomatoes but maybe he will forgive it since it turned into a pretty moth.

Pierro said...

YES!!! we have those all over our gardens and the family thought they were hummingbirds - except mom! she is never ever wrong. She said it was "some kinda moth thing" which is not nearly as scientifical as your superb explanation!
Now she cannot wait to tell the fam. Mark, you are brrrrilliant and of course a very very good hunter - naturally!

bonks for this exciting news. and for a happy saturday

Spitty-the-Kitty said...

Iza, you know you just can't trust the Humans! They'll tell you something and you just go along believing it and than BAMMO! it turns out to be all wrong.

Well, at least TBT absolved you of the responsibility, but you need to question his sources more thoroughly in the future! Either that, or let Ayla pass along the information, heh heh.

Brian said...

Hey, I sure wouldn't have known the difference at all!

Derby, Ducky said...

Iza, you is forgiven, you just past along bad info from TBT.

Sparkle the Designer Cat said...

Nevermind the bad information, I can't keep my eyes of that tomato hornworm moth! Wow! I can just imagine how tasty that might be! I am tempted to talk my human into growing some tomatoes in hopes of attracting a few of those over here!

Mr. Hendrix said...

Cool info! Don't feel bad Iza, it isn't your fault. It was totally the beans in your life.

Um, can I ask one question? How do they taste?

Cheysuli and gemini said...

I am quite glad they will not be eating your tomato leaves!

Cory said...

Ah yes...but what we really want to know is how do they taste? They may eat tomatoes, but I eat moths!!!

Ayla and Iza, said...

Unfortunately, we dont know how our kind tastes. Like humming birds, they are too fast...

Jan's Funny Farm said...

Hmmm, that was interesting. We didn't know any of that.

Shaggy, Scooby and Scout said...

Wowza!
That big ole hornworm moth looks like Thanksgiving dinner!!!!!

AnnDee said...

TBT: next time you find a tomato horn-worm, carefully catch it and pop it in a large jar (gallon size is best) with some tomato clippings to eat. They like a little bit of soil, too, for when they pupate. Which they will do. Depending on the time of year you catch them and the temperature at which you keep them, they may over-winter.

For those of you who have never watched a butterfly/moth emerge from its chrysalis/cocoon, it's a treat right up there with watching kittens being born.

Ayla and Iza, said...

AnnDee, thank you for the suggestion. I intend to do just that the next time I find a non-parasitized. It is one thing to read information on the internet and another to verify it for oneself.

I have the equipment for it (10 gallon aquarium with both glass and screen covers in which I have kept mantises a couple of times), and we know the obvious food.

I just never tried raising a caterpillar to adulthood before. I would very much like to see an adult tomato hornworm. Partly to know how to identify it in the future, but partly to see how closely it resembles a real hummingbird.

Thank you,
The Big Thing

And then we'll know how it tastes...
Ayla and Iza