Wednesday, September 18, 2013


White sphinx hummingmoth feeding on
a large impatiens plant near our front door.
Detroit Harbor, Washington Island -

Yesterday was our grandson's 11th birthday, and as we headed outdoors so that he could try his new pellet gun, he noticed what we at first thought was a hummingbird feeding on the pink impatiens flowers.

Except, at closer examination, it was a moth and not a hummingbird.  It seemed not bothered that we were nearby, as it circled the plant for over five minutes and at one point landed on Atlas's boot.  Unlike hummingbirds I've observed, this moth had great flying skills but was not nearly so quick.  And, it came back to the same blossoms repeatedly, instinct coupled with zero memory.

I emailed Roy Lukes, sending him these same photos.  Roy's nature column for the Peninsula Pulse covers a different topic each week, and he's considered Door County's dean of observers and foremost authority on local natural history topics.  He is also an excellent nature photographer.

Roy's reply to me was as follows:

"...this is not the hummingbird clearwing moth, but rather the white-lined sphinx moth.  The clearwing hummingbird moth is also considered one of the sphinx moths.  Both the clearwing hummingbird moth and the snowberry clearwing moth are usually not seen after the first week of August, while the white-lined sphinx flies even into the first week of October, the latest of the sphinx moths.  I agree with you that its a beautiful creature, so unafraid of humans, too!

Roy continued, writing that he and Charlotte were coming to the island this weekend to study mushrooms, something they do regularly county-wide.  I believe Charlotte has identified nearly 600 different mushroom species in our county (about 60 species identified here on Washington Island), with a goal of some day publishing her findings in a book.

Because this has been a wet summer, and now a rainy fall, there might be better-than-usual mushroom hunting and identification opportunities.

 -  Dick Purinton

1 comment:

Third Island Yoga said...

Thanks for sharing this Dick. I watched one for a long time in our backyard last weekend and was curious about what in the world it was. Mystery solved!