Hemaris thysbe - (Fabricius, 1775)
Hummingbird Clearwing
Other English Common Names: Hummingbird Moth
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s): Hemaris thysbe (Fabricius) (TSN 188633)
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.116159
Element Code: IILEX0W010
Informal Taxonomy: Animals, Invertebrates - Insects - Butterflies and Moths - Sphinx Moths
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus
Animalia Mandibulata Insecta Lepidoptera Sphingidae Hemaris
Genus Size: C - Small genus (6-20 species)
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Concept Reference
Concept Reference: Hodges, R.W. et al., eds. 1983. Check List of the Lepidoptera of America North of Mexico. E.W. Classey Limited and The Wedge Entomological Research Foundation, London. 284 pp.
Concept Reference Code: B83HOD01HQUS
Name Used in Concept Reference: Hemaris thysbe
Conservation Status

NatureServe Status

Global Status: G5
Global Status Last Reviewed: 31Jul2012
Global Status Last Changed: 31May2002
Ranking Methodology Used: Ranked by calculator
Rounded Global Status: G5 - Secure
Reasons: Huge range, occurs in many habitat types, a familiar species in many eastern U.S. and Canadian gardens.
Nation: United States
National Status: N5 (17Oct2000)
Nation: Canada
National Status: N5 (17Aug2017)

U.S. & Canada State/Province Status
Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
United States Alabama (SNR), Alaska (SNR), Arkansas (SNR), Connecticut (SNR), Delaware (SNR), Florida (SNR), Georgia (SNR), Idaho (S3), Illinois (SNR), Indiana (SNR), Iowa (SNR), Kansas (SNR), Kentucky (S4), Louisiana (SNR), Maine (SNR), Maryland (SNR), Massachusetts (SNR), Michigan (SNR), Minnesota (SNR), Mississippi (SNR), Missouri (SNR), Montana (SNR), Nebraska (SNR), New Hampshire (SNR), New Jersey (SNR), New York (SNR), North Carolina (SNR), North Dakota (SNR), Ohio (SNR), Oklahoma (SNR), Pennsylvania (SNR), Rhode Island (SNR), South Carolina (SNR), South Dakota (SNR), Tennessee (SNR), Texas (SNR), Vermont (SNR), Virginia (SNR), West Virginia (SNR), Wisconsin (SNR), Wyoming (SNR)
Canada Alberta (S4), British Columbia (SNR), Manitoba (S5), New Brunswick (S4S5), Newfoundland Island (S4), Northwest Territories (SU), Nova Scotia (S4S5), Nunavut (SU), Ontario (S5), Prince Edward Island (SU), Quebec (SNR), Saskatchewan (SU), Yukon Territory (SU)

Other Statuses

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Range Extent: >2,500,000 square km (greater than 1,000,000 square miles)
Range Extent Comments: The range is vast, from central Alaska and Labrador to southern Florida. It is however absent from most or all of U.S. states west of the Dakotas and eastern Texas.

Area of Occupancy: 2,000 to >20,000 km2 (direct estimate, default)
Area of Occupancy Comments:  

Number of Occurrences: > 300

Number of Occurrences with Good Viability/Integrity: Very many (>125)

Overall Threat Impact Comments: There are no known pervasive threats, but several threats can be substantial at a more local level.

The net effect of residential development is usually strongly negative. While adults are common in, and obviously benefit from, flower gardens, cultivated areas seldom provide much larval foodplant or pupation habitat, and in wooded areas these and other understory are generally destoyed even if trees are left.

Excessive browsing of viburnums by deer is a serious threat at a local scale since these foodplants can be killed outright, but it is unclear how widely this is really a concern, especially where tall, even semi-arboreal species like Viburnum prunifolium or V. lentago are abundant.

Herbicides and invasive plants are of concern because they affect native viburnums and other larval foodplants.

Short-term Trend: Relatively Stable (<=10% change)

Long-term Trend: Unknown

Intrinsic Vulnerability: Not intrinsically vulnerable

Environmental Specificity: Moderate. Generalist or community with some key requirements scarce.
Environmental Specificity Comments: This species is probably restricted to places where native viburnums (but not V. acerifolium) grow in most of the range. Most records for other foodplants seem to be errors, in some cases due to confusing common names of shrubs. However, a number of the viburnums used by this species are quite common.

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

Global Range: (>2,500,000 square km (greater than 1,000,000 square miles)) The range is vast, from central Alaska and Labrador to southern Florida. It is however absent from most or all of U.S. states west of the Dakotas and eastern Texas.

U.S. States and Canadian Provinces

Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
Color legend for Distribution Map
Endemism: occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations

U.S. & Canada State/Province Distribution
United States AK, AL, AR, CT, DE, FL, GA, IA, ID, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MO, MS, MT, NC, ND, NE, NH, NJ, NY, OH, OK, PA, RI, SC, SD, TN, TX, VA, VT, WI, WV, WY
Canada AB, BC, MB, NB, NF, NS, NT, NU, ON, PE, QC, SK, YT

Range Map
No map available.

Ecology & Life History
Ecology Comments: See Hemaris diffinis. Because in most of its range H. thysbe is associated with viburnums in more or less wooded places it is probably less likely to be a pollinator of rare plants of prairies and other open habitats than is H. diffinis. Nevertheless, both species are often among the most common hawk moths in rural parts of eastern states, and thus are potentially important pollinators of sphingophilous flowers. Probably even more so than with H. diffinis, proximity of breeding habitat could limit the availability of H. thysbe as a pollinator. Since both species are common overall, interest in them by conservation biologists is most likely to be in the context of pollination services.
Non-Migrant: N
Locally Migrant: N
Long Distance Migrant: N
Palustrine Habitat(s): Bog/fen, SCRUB-SHRUB WETLAND
Terrestrial Habitat(s): Forest Edge, Savanna, Shrubland/chaparral, Suburban/orchard, Woodland - Conifer, Woodland - Hardwood, Woodland - Mixed
Habitat Comments: Adults are usually seen at flowers in gardens or flowery meadows in most of the range. They are otherwise not often seen. Viburnums are typically associated with wooded habitats but sometimes also occur in successional shrubby habitats. Most likely larvae occur mostly along wooded edges southward. Based on the extensive boreal range, taiga and openings in boreal forests may also be typical habitats in places where Ericaceae are used as foodplants. Probably any open or lightly wooded habitat with nectar sources is potential adult habitat. It is not really known whether more interior portions of deciduous forests are really habitats or not. Viburnums are often among the more common understory shrubs and even small trees (e.g. V. prunifolium) in such forests where native understory still occurs. It is not known whether adults fly into forests to oviposit or stay mostly in sunnier, warmer, microhabitats.
Adult Food Habits: Nectarivore
Immature Food Habits: Herbivore
Food Comments: Eastern larvae feed primarily, if not entirely, on species of Viburnum (Wagner, 2005). The compilation by Robinson et al. (2002) also includes reports on a few other Caprifoliaceae, but Tuttle (2009) and others suspect these may refer to H. diffinis. Reports of hawthorn are almost certainly incorrect and very likely arise from misinterpretation of terms like possumhaw or black haw which are used as common names for some species of Viburnum and Ilex. Tuttle (2007) reports that they also occur regularly on blueberry and cranberry, presumably referring to western or far northern parts of the range, since this species does not occur in heathlands, pinelands, or barrens in the eastern United States unless viburnums are present. Neither Wagner (2005) or the extensive compilation of Robinson et al. (2002) list Ericaceae as foodplants. Like many viburnum specialists, the larvae will not eat Viburnum acerifolium (Joseph R. Garris, observations in New Jersey). They probably do eat nearly all other native species though. Viburnums they are known to use include V. dentatum, lentago, nudum (including cassinoides), opulus (Robinson et al., 2002), and prunifolium. The last is regularly used in New Jersey (J.R. Garris) and may be a major foodplant on the Piedmont. The absence of this moth in most of the western United States probably reflects a lack of suitable viburnums. Adults visit a vast array of flowers, native and ornamental, often pink or purple ones. Garden phlox and Buddleia are favorites in summer as are certain cultivars of lilacs in spring. Sheep laurel (Kalmia) and wild azaleas are among native plants used in spring.
Immature Phenology: Hibernates/aestivates
Phenology Comments: In Canada and the northern border states, there is one generation of adults in early summer. In most of the US portion of the range there are two or three broods. Adults occur from late March or sometime in April though August or September from about Missouri and New Jersey southward. As with all North American Sphingidae, this one overwinters as a pupa. Pupae are in a cocoon on the ground.
Economic Attributes Not yet assessed
Management Summary
Stewardship Overview: Management would be unlikely unless in the context of local pollinators for a sphingophilous plant, such as some orchids. Such shortages seem unlikely except in intensively agricultural regions. Presumably the most productive approach for enhancement would be increasing availability of locally suitable foodplants, i.e. certain viburnums in most of the US part of the range.
Population/Occurrence Delineation
Group Name: Pollinating Hawk Moths

Use Class: Not applicable
Minimum Criteria for an Occurrence: Conceptually an occurrence would be a location with evidence of presence (or historical presence) that is large enough to have potential for continued presence and/or regular recurrence, that is generally where larvae occur. Minimally based on a specimen or diagnostic photograph of a larva or adult, or for some species even an expert sight record associated with suitable habitat. In practice most collection locations in a region where the species is resident may be considered as indicative of an occurrence nearby. These moths are apparently usually landscape level species, most of which do not form localized populations making occurrence definition difficult at best. Adults commonly move several kilometers to find food and the larger species could very easily move 100 km in a few nights. Even some smaller ones, Aellopos, do so. Thus occurrences for breeding areas should be based on regular presence of larvae, although not necessarily every year. In North America do not track late season occurrences of adults or larvae well north of their permanent range as occurrences, such as larvae of Agrius cingulatus in the fall on sweet potato in New Jersey or Virginia or any tropical species in Canada. Occurrences based on adult reseources probably would not be useful and would often be gardens.
Mapping Guidance: In the few cases where there is an obvious local habitat preference the occurrence boundaries would often be the same as for the associated plant community although an EO might consist of several discrete proximate patches. Similarly if the larval foodplant is strictly confined to a particular mappable habitat these can be mapped as discrete patches several to many of which can be combined as a plausible EO. In most cases though boundaries will be very difficult to define. Mapping individual plants as separate EOs would be unrealistic since it would take many plants to maintain a population. Note that even with MANDUCA BLACKBURNI whose primary native foodplant is now quite scarce, mapping these probably does not fully define the EO because larvae also feed on exotic Solanaceae. In the western USA habitats and thus occurrence boundaries will very often be defined by edaphic features or by plant communities limited by altitude. For example in arid regions FRAXINUS or VITIS feeders will be confined to riparian corridors usually in canyons and these easily mapped features can be used to define the EO.
Separation Barriers: In most cases potential barriers will be large and better treated as unsuitable habitats, but smaller brightly lit urban areas, large bodies of water with on-shore breezes, high peaks (especially those with night temperature below 10 C), or possibly habitats where night time temperatures oftren stay above 30 C; or (especially in Florida) places with frequent extensive mosquito spraying might be considered barriers. Local observations may occasionally suggest features which greatly curtail movement and if these are well under the separation distance in size they may be considered as barriers.
Separation Distance for Unsuitable Habitat: 10 km
Separation Distance for Suitable Habitat: 20 km
Alternate Separation Procedure: Where EOs occupy islands in the ocean (e.g. off the coast of New England, USA; Hawaii) separate islands would generally be considered separate EOs if they are more than 1 kilometer from each other or from the mainland.
Separation Justification: These separation distances are arbitrary but seem reasonable considering the flight capabilities of these moths. For example D. Schweitzer has twice estimated SPHINX GORDIUS cruising along sand roads at around 40 kilometers per hour in New Jersey using an automobile speedometer. This is certainly not one of the fastest species of sphinx moths. this one though does recognize habitat boundaries (i.e. rarely enters forests) and some of the others do likewise. There are claims of faster speeds for a few. It is here assumed that most or all of them fly at 20-60 kilometers per hour or faster so all separation distances could be traversed less than half an hour. Larger distances are deemed somewhat imparctical at least if there is some need to define occurrences based on unsuitable intervening habitats. In eastern North America many species occur sparsely in forests, thickets and subrubia where their larvae feed on well distributed but not dominant, sometimes sparse, trees (often FRAXINUS), vines (mostly Vitaceae), shrubs, or even herbs. Adults lay hundreds of eggs usually singly or perhaps two or three on a plant and usually not many in a patch which implies they must cover many kilometers. There is no known documentation of individual movement distances, but some of these species rather commonly stray more than 500 to 1000 kilometers out of their normal ranges and obviously the ancestor(s) of MANDUCA BLACKBURNI colonized HAWAII from the Americas ranking these moths among the most mobile land animals on earth. It is quite unclear in many temperate areas whether related pest MANDUCA can even survive the winters or recolonize annually from hundreds of kilometers to the south. It is not at all unusual to observe or collect adults of many species (e.g some HEMARIS, HYLES, some MANDUCA) several kilometers out of habitat and likely that adults often move several kilometers per day looking for nectar or oviposition sites. Even the short lived non-feeding PACHSPHINX MODESTA and CERATOMIA AMYNTOR have shown up ten kilometers or more out of habitat in southern New Jersey (Schweitzer)--certainly failry sedentary species. At the other extreme a mass migration of the American Hyles lineata was documented widely in Great Britain in 1943.

With adequate search effort suitable habitat would almost always prove to support occupancy or frequent recurrence where it is within a few kilometers of known occupied habitat. However instances will occur where documentation of presence is limited and available proximate habitat vast. Likewise part of an occurrence (but not an entire C rank or better EO) could easily be unoccupied at times, e.g. certain months or years. Some species are very hard to document, such as SPHINX DRUPIFERARUM which is likely to be overlooked by standard collecting lights and does not come to sugar baits and at least in the Northeast generally turns up by accident.

Both distances are arbitrary, the unsuitable habitat distance is especially tentative since it is not at all known for most species if they respond to and tend to avoid habitat changes or simply cruise over large landscapes looking for mates and oviposition sites. On the other hand the separation distance within extensive suitable habitat is clearly conservative given that occurrences are populations of dozens to thousands or more of wide ranging individuals which probably live a couple of weeks and each of which can easily move 20 kilometers in an hour, so there is almost no chance that two collections only 20 kilometers apart in extensive tracts of habitat would really represent two separate occurrences.

Inferred Minimum Extent of Habitat Use (when actual extent is unknown): 5 km
Inferred Minimum Extent Justification: IE is really moot for such often low density landscape level moths that can easily move a kilometer in less than a minute. In the relatively few cases where edaphic or obvious habitat features clearly define the habitat one could reasonably consider any such patches within up to ten kilometers as part of the known EO but since this figure is probably impractical for an IE of all foodplant patches within two kilometers is arbitrarily suggested. Note USFWS designated critical habitat patches for MANDUCA BLACKBURNI up to 15,216 hectares and none under 100 hectares. Obviously functional occurrences for many continental species would be much larger. A conservative suggestion for inferred extent for a landscape level sphinx moth really would be all suitable habitat within a 5 km radius, but that may be impractical and many occurrences are much larger.
Date: 19Jun2001
Author: Schweitzer, Dale F.
Notes: These Specs were drafted mainly for higlhy mobile species with feeding aduts and relatively sparsely distributed foodplants. They may be inappropriate for species feeding on locally abundant plants such as Ericaceae, aspens, willows, or Myricaceae which may support denser populations that can persist in as little as a few hundred hectares or even less. Some of these are already assigned to other Specs groups but perhaps most SMERINTHINAE should have separate Specs. For a useful general review doubtless as applicable to temperate species as it is to tropical ones see the critical habitat proposal for MANDUCA BLACKBURNI (USFWS, 2002, e.g. p. 40640) and references therein.
Population/Occurrence Viability
U.S. Invasive Species Impact Rank (I-Rank) Not yet assessed
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Edition Date: 04May2012
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Author: Schweitzer, D.F.
Management Information Edition Date: 04May2012
Management Information Edition Author: Schweitzer, D.F.
Element Ecology & Life History Edition Date: 27Apr2012
Element Ecology & Life History Author(s): Schweitzer, D.F.

Zoological data developed by NatureServe and its network of natural heritage programs (see Local Programs) and other contributors and cooperators (see Sources).

  • Covell, C.V., Jr. 1984. A field guide to the moths of eastern North America. Houghton Mifflin Co. Boston, MA. 496 pp.

  • General Status 2015, Environment Canada. 2014. Manitoba moth species list and ranks as recommended by expert.

  • Grehan, John R. et al. 1995. Moths and Butterflies of Vermont (Lepidoptera): A Faunal Checklist. Agricultural Experiment Station, University of Vermont and Department of Forests, Parks, and Recreation, State of Vermont. Miscellaneous Publication 116. Vermont Monitoring Cooperative Bulletin No. 1.

  • Hodges, R.W. et al., eds. 1983. Check List of the Lepidoptera of America North of Mexico. E.W. Classey Limited and The Wedge Entomological Research Foundation, London. 284 pp.

  • Lafontaine, J. D. and J.T. Troubridge. 1998. Moths and butterflies (Lepidoptera) in Smith, I.M., and G.G.E. Scudder, eds. Assessment of species diversity in the Montane Cordillera Ecozone. Burlington: Ecological Monitoring and Assessment Network, 1998. Online. Available: http://www.naturewatch.ca/eman/reports/publications/99_montane/lepidopt/intro.html

  • Schmidt, B. C. 2009. Hemaris thetis (Boisduval, 1855) (Sphingidae) is a distinct species. Journal of the Lepidopterists' Society 63(2):100-109.

  • Tuttle, J. P. 2007. The hawk moths of North America: A natural history study of the Sphingidae of the United States and Canada. The Wedge Entomological Research Foundation, Washington, D. C. 253 pp. +23 plates.

  • Wagner, D.L. 2012. Moth decline in the northeastern United States. News of the Lepidopteristss Society 54(2):52-56.

  • Wagner, D.L. 2005. Caterpillars of Eastern North America. Princeton Field Guides. Princeton University Press, Princeton NJ. 512 pp.

  • Wildlife Management Information System (WMIS). 2006+. Geo-referenced wildlife datasets (1900 to present) from all projects conducted by Environment and Natural Resources, Government of the Northwest Territories, Canada.  Available at http://www.enr.gov.nt.ca/programs/wildlife-research/wildlife-management-information-services

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