Hemaris diffinis
hee-MAGH-rihsmmDIF-fih-nihs
(Boisduval, 1836) Macroglossa diffinis
Snowberry Clearwing or Bumblebee Moth


Hemaris diffinis, Peterborough, Ontario, May 22, 2007, courtesy of Tim Dyson.

This site has been created by Bill Oehlke at oehlkew@islandtelecom.com
Comments, suggestions and/or additional information are welcomed by Bill.

TAXONOMY:

Family: Sphingidae, Latreille, 1802
Subfamily: Macroglossinae, Harris, 1839
Tribe: Dilophonotini, Burmeister, 1878
Genus: Hemaris (Dalman, 1816) ...........
Species: diffinis (Boisduval, 1836)

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Those Sphingidae west of the continental divide, previously thought to be H. diffinis are now determined to be the recently elevated species, Hemaris thetis. It is my understanding that the moths described as H. senta also belong to H. thetis as thetis was described (Boisduval, 1855) before senta was described [Strecker, 1878].

Subsequently thetis was synonymized with diffinis, but, based on paper by Christian Schmidt Journal of the Lepidopterists' Society 63(2), 2009, 100-109. Hemaris thetis (Boisduval, 1855) (Sphingidae), H. thetis in now recognized as a distinct species, based on DNA and genitalia analysis.

In some places just East of the Divide (Colorado, Alberta) overlap of ranges of H. thetis and H. diffinis is known and precise determinations, by photographs only, will be next to impossible.

Thanks to Edna Bottorff and Ryan St. Laurent for alerting me of this change. It will be a little while before I get the changes made on the Sphingidae of the Americas website.

I will shortly create the H. thetis page and will move all appropriate images off this page and add them to the new page.

Hemaris thysbe, left; Hemaris diffinis, right;
Vernon County, Wisconsin, courtesy of Dan Jackson.

Dan Jackson writes, "The Hemaris diffinis shot that I just sent to you reminded me of another that I took at my home in Vernon County, Wisconsin on 7/30/11. I think that you will enjoy it. You donít see this every day!!

In that clump of flowers that was about 3 m square, there were 8 Hemaris thysbe and 3 Hemaris diffinis feeding at the same time. I really lucked out when one of each start to nectar on the same flower. That was my best shot."

WOW!!!

DISTRIBUTION:

The Snowberry Clearwing Moth or Bumblebee Moth (wingspan 1 1/2 - 2" (37-50mm)) flies from the Northwest Teritories south to British Columbia, and east to Nova Scotia in Canada. In the U.S. Hemaris diffinis flies from Maine to Florida and westward to the Continental Divide. Western Canadian species are probably also H. thetis.

Visit Hemaris diffinis, ovipositing on Coral Honeysuckle, (Lonicera sempervirens), around 3:20pm on 04 May 2011, Killeen, Bell County, Texas, courtesy of Eric Runfeldt.

Visit Hemaris diffinis, May 16, 2011, Apalachin, Tioga County, New York, courtesy of Colleen Wolpert.

Visit Hemaris diffinis Red Deer, Alberta, May 17, 2013, G. Bruce Reid.

Visit Hemaris diffinis, recto and verso, Mason, Ingham County, Michigan, June 1, 1999, courtesy of Harry Dale King.

Visit Hemaris diffinis, Ettrick, Trempealeau County, Wisconsin, July 15, 2012, Don Severson

Visit Hemaris diffinis, Endwell, Broome County, New York, July 27, 2008, courtesy of Cindy Girard.

Visit Hemaris diffinis, Enfield, Hartford County, Connecticut, August 7, 2009, courtesy of Janis LaPointe.

Visit Hemaris diffinis, Bullitt County, Kentucky, Dan Davison.

I have not seen this species on Prince Edward Island, Canada.

Ken Philip has taken this species in Haines, Alaska.

Hemaris diffinis newly emerged, Florida, courtesy of Leroy Simon.

Hemaris diffinis is a very variable species, but almost always the abdomen sports contrasting black and yellow hairs, the ventral surface being quite black. The legs also tend to be quite dark and there is a black mask running across the eye and along the sides of the thorax.


Hemaris diffinis, Peterborough, Ontario, May 29, 2007, courtesy of Tim Dyson.

Adults mimic bumblebees and are quite variable, both geographically and seasonally. The wings are basically clear, with dark brown to brownish-orange veins, bases and edges. The thorax is golden-brown to dark greenish-brown. The abdomen tends to be dark (black) with 1-2 yellow segments just before the terminal end. These yellow segments are in much sharper contrast to the rest of the abdomen than in somewhat similar species. Also note the relatively narrow dark outer margin of the hindwing. Most fresh specimens also have some blue "fur" tufts highlighting the first black band on the abdomen.

Hemaris diffinis male (Louisiana) courtesy of Vernon A. Brou.

This moth hovers over flowers in full sunlight, producing a buzzing sound with its wings, similar to that of a hummingbird.

The black abdomen and black legs are evident in these specimens from Texas, courtesy of Mike Van Buskirk.

Hemaris diffinis, captured while nectaring at Leucophyllum texanum, July 1, 2006,
4:45 pm, Texas, courtesy of Mike Van Buskirk.

Hemaris diffinis, captured while nectaring at Leucophyllum texanum, July 1, 2006,
4:45 pm, Texas, courtesy of Mike Van Buskirk.

The dorsal surfaces of the legs in Hemaris thysbe are whitish-pale grey, and the legs of Hemaris gracilis are red. Note the very black legs of Hemaris diffinis.

FLIGHT TIMES:

There are usually two broods annually from March-September depending upon latitude. In Josephine County, Oregon, Edna reports them on the wing in June and again in August. The moth is seen along forest edges, in meadows, gardens and brushy fields. Adults like to nectar at lantana, dwarf bush honeysuckle, snowberry, orange hawkweed, thistles, lilac and Canada violet.

Hemaris diffinis, Great Falls, Fairfax County, Virginia, May 12, 2005,
"©2004 Duncan Champney. Used with permission."

ECLOSION:

Regular sized moths emerge from seemingly small pupae when this species is reared in captivity.

Larvae pupate in thin walled cocoons under leaf litter.

SCENTING AND MATING:

Females call in the males with a pheromone released from a gland at the tip of the abdomen.

Hemaris diffinis in copula, Peachtree City, Fayette County, Georgia,
September 6, 2012, courtesy of Dubble Kessler.

Dubble Kessler writes, "Hello Bill,
"I saw these two flying around in my back yard today. They were stuck together and flying. It reminded me of a Chinook helicopter. When they landed, I grabbed my iPad and took this pic. I had no idea what they were until I googled, "moth with see thru wings" and your site came up. Feel free to post it if you like."

EGGS, LARVAE, PUPAE:

Hemaris diffinis fifth instar, Regina, Saskatchewan,
July 26, 2011, courtesy of Tim Taylor.

Sam Jaffe writes, "Last week on Cape Cod I found a large clump of ~40 sphinx eggs on Myrica. Most sphinx won't clump their eggs, certainly not anything that eats Myrica... and I was completely stumped.

"They hatched out and refused all foods I could think of until I finally offered winterberry - Ilex verticillata. As they grew I was able to I.D. them as Hemaris diffinis and quickly offered honeysuckle which many transferred onto. However, three chose to stay on the Ilex and are growing fine now in their early third instars!

"Clearly this was an atypical experience in many ways for a clearwing, but I thought you might like to add Ilex as a potential host plant?

"Also, when cruising your H. diffinis page I noticed that you have an early instar caterpillar listed as H. diffinis that is actually H. thysbe. From the very first instar these two species are quite different in appearence, and from the second instar on, diffinis shows the straight, dark, sharply pointed tail with a light base, while thysbe displays a more classic sphinx horn. H. diffinis also lacks the strong subdorsal light bands that you can see on the individual pictured, which is a classic field mark for all instars of H. thysbe."

I have corrected the situation and moved the H. thysbe early instar to its correct page.

Caterpillars pass through five instars and are pale green on the back and darker green on the sides, with numerous white flecks in the final instar. The anal horn is bright yellow at base and blue-black at the tip. There are longitudinal brown stripes on the underside. The legs are almost white and barred with dark brown. There is a double row of yellow granules on the first segment which projects over head. The spiracles along side of body are very evident, being ringed in pale blue.

There is also a brown form. Ian Miller writes, May 20, 2009, "All 30 of my first snowberry clearwings are in their 3rd instar and are all brown! I don't know if first generations are usually all brown or if it has something to do with being inside, but I find it to be unusual because usually it's 50-50," i.e., usually half are green, half are brown.

Larval host plants include Snowberry (Symphoricarpos), honeysuckle (Lonicera), Coralberry, viburnums, Blue Dogbane (Apocynum) and dwarf bush honeysuckle (Diervilla lonicera).

Larval image to the right courtey of Tony Thomas.

Pupation is in a very flimsy cocoon at ground surface. The inch long pupa is brown.

Hemaris diffinis Florida, courtesy of Leroy Simon

Hemaris diffinis North Dakota, courtesy of Gerald Fauskes
Walsh County, Homme Dam. August 14, 2001, on Symphoricarpos sp.

In the fall, when larvae are ready to pupate, they take on an orange to burgundy hue as per these pictures courtesy of Tammie Hache, September 25, 2004, Northern Ontario, 3 hours east of Thunder Bay.

Visit beautiful images of Hemaris diffinis larvae, Paulding County, Ohio, courtesy of Kylee Baumle.

Visit Hemaris diffinis prepupal larva, Georgetown, Williamson County, Texas, October 18, 2002, Jill Burrows.

Visit Hemaris diffinis prepupal larva, Eau Claire County, Wisconsin, August 28, 2008, Ian Miller.

Visit Hemaris diffinis larva (Maryland-June) and adult (New Jersey-September), Steve Collins.

Visit Hemaris diffinis larva, Wurtzboro, Sullivan County, New York, September 24, 2009, courtesy of Jim Carney.

Visit Hemaris diffinis prepupal larva, near Gull Lake, Alberta, August 14, 2011, Robert Bercha.

Visit Hemaris diffinis larva and adult, Borger, Hutchinson County, Texas, Wallace B. Thompson.

Larvae can vary, but in most cases the final instar has a long black anal horn, lighter or yellow near the base. Spiracular circles tend to be very large, prominent and black, but there are regional differences. Western types often have a shorter, thicker horn and much smaller and lighter spiracular circles.

Green colouration of larvae is typical, but just before pupation larvae often darken to purplish-brown.

Hemaris diffinis pupa (dorsal), Saskatchewan, Canada,
courtesy of Tim Taylor

Hemaris diffinis pupa (ventral), Saskatchewan, Canada,
courtesy of Tim Taylor

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Those who first published descriptions and assigned scientific names to many insects, simply chose names of biblical or mythological origin without any real descriptive qualities. Their purpose was simply to set a standard for purposes of identification by assigned name. On some occasions, names, mostly of Latin or Greek origin, were chosen to signify a particular character of the genus or of an individual species.

The genus name "Hemaris" is probably a Latin adjective form for blood. It may have been chosen by Dalman based on the burgundy-red scales on the wings.

The original choice of "Macroglossa" would have been for the relatively large, glassy (clear) areas of the wings.

I do not know the origin of the species name "diffinis".

The pronunciation of scientific names is troublesome for many. The "suggestion" at the top of the page is merely a suggestion. It is based on commonly accepted English pronunciation of Greek names and/or some fairly well accepted "rules" for latinized scientific names.

The suggested pronunciations, on this page and on other pages, are primarily put forward to assist those who hear with internal ears as they read.

There are many collectors from different countries whose intonations and accents would be different.

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