Snowberry Clearwing Moth

Hemaris diffinis

Last updated: July 31, 2022
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff
Image Credit Jay Ondreicka/Shutterstock.com

They are pollinators, just like bees.

Snowberry Clearwing Moth Scientific Classification

Kingdom
Animalia
Phylum
Arthropoda
Class
Insecta
Order
Lepidoptera
Family
Sphingidae
Genus
Hemaris
Scientific Name
Hemaris diffinis

Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.

Snowberry Clearwing Moth Conservation Status

Snowberry Clearwing Moth Locations

Snowberry Clearwing Moth Locations

Snowberry Clearwing Moth Facts

Fun Fact
They are pollinators, just like bees.
Most Distinctive Feature
Clear wings and fuzzy body
Other Name(s)
Hummingbird moth, Flying Lobster
Habitat
North America
Diet
Herbivore
Favorite Food
Nectar from various plants
Special Features
Clear wings

Snowberry Clearwing Moth Physical Characteristics

Color
  • Brown
  • Yellow
  • Black
Length
Up to 2 inches long
Venomous
No

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View all of the Snowberry Clearwing Moth images!



The Snowberry Clearwing Moth looks so much like a bumblebee that some animals mistake it for the buzzing pollinator.

Is it a bumblebee? Is it a hummingbird? If you aren’t sure, it might just be a Snowberry Clearwing moth. These moths mimic bumblebees and even love to “buzz” around the same flowers and plants. They play an important role in the ecosystem as pollinators.

Species, Types, and Scientific Name

The scientific name of Snowberry Clearwing moths is Hemaris diffinis. It is a member of the Sphingidae family. These types of moths are also called sphinx moths or hawk moths. Snowberry Clearwing moths can also be known by different names sometimes. For example, a Hummingbird moth and a Flying Lobster both refer to the Snowberry Clearwing. It’s important not to confuse that with the Hummingbird-Hawk moth, which is a different species of sphinx moth.

Snowberry Clearwings belong to the Lepidoptera order, which includes all butterflies and moths. While they share many similarities, butterflies and moths are different in a few important features. Butterflies are usually brighter than moths, which tend to be grey or brown. Moths extend their wings over their bodies while at rest. Butterflies fold theirs up behind them.

The Snowberry Clearwing moths are also part of the Insecta class, Arthropoda phylum, and Animalia kingdom. Studying where these moths fit into the animal kingdom helps scientists understand more about them and their role in plant and animal conservation.

Appearance: How To Identify Snowberry Clearwing Moths

The Snowberry Clearwing has a couple of easy-to-identify features and one is right in its name. Their wings are see-through. Their wings do not have scales, which makes them clear. The outer scales on their wings are black. This acts as a kind of visual frame for their wing shape. When they first emerge from their cocoons, they do have scales but they fall off quickly as they move around.

These moths also have black and yellow fuzzy bodies, similar to bees. The main portion is a fuzzy dark yellow. The back portion of the abdomen is made up of bands of black and yellow. They are easy to mistake for bees until you notice the clearwings behind their body.

They are around 2 inches long. This larger size makes it easy to see their bee-like markings and coloring. The fuzzy appearance also adds to their bulk. Actual fine hairs make them fuzzy, rather than feathers. This is a similarity that they share with bumblebees rather than hummingbirds.

snowberry clearwing moth
The Snowberry Clearwing Moth has see-through wings and fuzzy black and yellow bodies.

Walter Coate/Shutterstock.com

Hummingbirds are usually 3-4 inches. Compared to the Snowberry Clearwing, which is just 2 inches long, Hummingbirds are much larger. This is one of the easiest ways to tell if you are looking at a moth or a hummingbird. Like Hummingbirds, these moths fan out their tail while they hover in the air, drinking nectar.

As larvae, Snowberry Clearwing moths are green. This is common among both moths and butterflies. The green coloring helps them blend into the plants that they need to eat in order to mature and eventually become adult moths. The larvae have a horned end to their tail like many other species of sphinx moths.

Habitat: Where to Find Snowberry Clearwing Moths

Snowberry Clearwing moths live in North America. They are common in many climates, from the colder Canadian provinces to tropical Florida. They can be found in British Columbia, California, the Midwest, and most parts of the Eastern United States from Maine all the way to Florida.

These moths like areas that have plenty of food for them to eat. These included wooded forests as well as urban gardens and residential landscapes. As long as they can eat, they are pretty happy. Due to their large habitat distribution, it is clear that they can live off of a variety of types of flowers.

As larvae, these animals live on the forest floor near their food sources. They even pupate in a cocoon on the ground. When they become adults, they can fly from flower to flower to eat. They are most active during the spring and summer and are seen frequently between March and September.

Diet: What Do Snowberry Clearwing Moths Eat?

These moths usually eat during the daytime and can be seen flying from flower to flower. This behavior is another reason that it is easy to mistake them for bumblebees since bees also go from flower to flower. They are also active at night and dusk, leading to many people thinking that they are looking at hummingbirds when they are actually spotting a Snowberry Clearwing moth.

They get the Snowberry part of their name from the food preference of the larvae form. As larvae, these animals like to eat snowberry, a small bush with white berries that is in the same family as the Honeysuckle. They also like buckbrush, horse gentian, blue star, and a variety of others.

Adult Snowberry Clearwing moths are not very picky about the type of flower that they get nectar from, as long as they can reach it. They have long straws called a proboscis to get into deep flowers. But they can find nectar from flowers in most regions. While eating, they hover in front of the flower similar to bees or hummingbirds.

Prevention: How to Get Rid of Snowberry Clearwing Moths

These moths are beneficial to plants and the environment. It’s best to leave them alone and let them drink nectar from your flowers. They pollinate while they move from flower to flower, holding pollen on their fuzzy bodies just like bees.

Instead of preventing Snowberry Clearwing moths, it’s best to try to attract them to your garden. This is especially true if you want to grow things like flowers, vegetables, and fruit. To make your outdoor area more enticing for Snowberry Clearwing moths, plant brightly colored flowers to attract them. Make sure that they can reach the nectar inside and that the flowers are not too deep.

Their bumblebee-like appearance actually helps scare off potential predators. Moths are tasty treats for many animals. This moth uses its natural camouflage to make other animals think that it is more dangerous than it actually is. These moths do not have stingers, just the coloring of bees. This helps them avoid becoming someone’s lunch.

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About the Author

Katie is a freelance writer and teaching artist specializing in home, lifestyle, and family topics. Her work has appeared in At Ease Magazine and The Spruce, among others. When she is not writing, Katie teaches Creative Writing at Indian Creek School and was awarded an Author Fellowship to Martha's Vineyard Institute of Creative Writing. She also enjoys spending time with her three kids and cat.

Snowberry Clearwing Moth FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Are Snowberry Clearwing Moths dangerous?

No, these moths are not dangerous. They are actually quite beneficial for gardeners.

How many legs does a Snowberry Clearwing Moth have?

These moths have six legs. This is true of all insects, including moths and butterflies.

How do you identify a Snowberry Clearwing moth?

These moths are easy to recognize with their clear wings and back and yellow fuzzy body. At first glance, they can be mistaken for bumblebees due to their coloring or hummingbirds due to their feeding habits.

Sources
  1. Missouri Dept. of Conservation, Available here: https://mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/field-guide/snowberry-clearwing
  2. Birds and Blooms, Available here: https://www.birdsandblooms.com/gardening/garden-bugs/facts-about-hummingbird-moths/#:~:text=They%20also%20have%20six%20legs,bodies%20are%20plump%20like%20bumblebees.
  3. Chesapeake Bay Program, Available here: https://www.chesapeakebay.net/discover/field-guide/entry/snowberry_clearwing

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