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Hummingbird Moth belong to a large group of small moths in the family Tineidae. There are two species of clothes moths that are of considerable economic importance.
Adult Hummingbird Moths feed on nectar from many different flowers, just like hummingbirds. Some of their favorites include: Japanese Honeysuckle, Red Clover, Highbush Blueberry, thistles, wild roses, and blackberries.Hummingbird Moths use a long, thin, needle-like mouthpart called a proboscis to eat. The proboscis stays coiled up like a garden hose until it is time to use it. When the moth approaches a flower, it uncoils its proboscis and dips it deep into the flower where the nectar is. Predators of Hummingbird Moths include birds, mantids, spiders, bats, and other moth- and caterpillar-eaters, although they probably get some protection from looking so much like hummingbirds.
Life Cycle:The whitelined sphinx (Hyles lineata) is the most common hornworm of Colorado and, by far, the most commonly encountered â€śhummingbird mothâ€ť. Larvae develop on a variety of plants but seldom do they significantly damage those plants considered economically important. Portulaca, primrose, and wild grape are among the most common larval hosts. Rarely, you may see large outbreaks of caterpillars that sometimes result in very visible migrations across roadways when food plants are exhausted.Hornworms of the whitelined sphinx can vary in color. Most are predominately green, with some yellow, white, and/or black markings. Less commonly youâ€™ll find predominately black forms, with yellow markings. Adults have a prominent white band on the upper forewing.
The largest common sphinx moth in Colorado is the big poplar sphinx (Pachysphinx occidentalis); a closely related species, the modest sphinx (Pachysphinx modesta), can be found in higher elevations. Caterpillars are generally green with light striping. Both species develop on aspen, cottonwood, poplar, and willow, but they are never abundant enough to cause injury to the tree.
Damage:The larva is the damaging stage and feeds initially on the upper portions of leaves, leaving behind dark green or black droppings. The larvae blend in with the plant canopy, and therefore go unnoticed until most of the damage is done. Late instar larvae are capable of destroying several leaves as well as the fruit. As the larvae mature in size the amount of defoliation increases, with the last instar consuming over 90% of the total combined foliage consumed by all instars.
Control:Tomato hornworm larvae are also parasitized by a number of insects. One of the most common is a small braconid wasp, Cotesia congregatus. Larvae that hatch from wasp eggs laid on the hornworm feed on the inside of the hornworm until the wasp is ready to pupate. The cocoons appear as white projections protruding from the hornworms body (see photo, left). If such projections are observed, the hornworms should be left in the garden to conserve the beneficial parasitoids. The wasps will kill the hornworms when they emerge from the cocoons and will seek out other hornworms to parasitize.
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