Hummingbird Hawk Moth in Minnesota?

Asked May 20, 2016, 12:45 PM EDT

Hello Extension Experts I was downtown St Paul several years ago, probably about 10 years, when I saw this bird thing or so I thought until it had a proboscis like a butterfly (clearly visible). They did not seem to be afraid of people and were concentrating on some of the flowers (that look tropical planted downtown). Are there any instances of the Hummingbird Hawk Moth in Minnesota? For years I have just referred to this encounter as the space alien bug, due to the size and the visibly curled proboscis. I had never seen anything like this before, it was pretty large and there were a couple of them.

Ramsey County Minnesota

4 Responses

Hi, and thanks for contacting AaE.

Hummingbird moths - also known as Hawk Moths, and Sphinx moths - are relatively common in Minnesota. I suspect that they are often mistaken for Hummingbirds, but they seem to move around much faster, and more elusively that the slightly larger birds do. They also tend to be nocturnal, and thus, may be more easily observed late in the day. Nevertheless, it's always sort of magical when you can spot one. They are important pollinators, and the more pollinator friendly plants that you have in your garden - the more likely you will be to see them.

Here are some links that can tell you more about the really cool insects:
http://www.extension.umn.edu/garden/insects/find/its-a-hummingbird-its-a-moth-its-a-what/
http://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/pollinators/pollinator-of-the-month/hummingbird_moth.shtml
http://www.ipm.iastate.edu/ipm/hortnews/2010/7-28/hummingbirdmoth.html

http://nativeplantwildlifegarden.com/ive-just-seen-a-baby-hummingbird/

Thanks for your fun question!!!

Since most are not looking to attract or assist the moths. Will putting moth balls in the garden areas ward off the hummingbird moth while still attracting hummingbirds?

I believe the use of "moth balls" (there are a variety of products) in this case would be an off-label use that is prohibited. Always follow the label... the label is the law. In any case, moth balls are for use in an enclosed space. They should be totally ineffective.

Furthermore the moth balls would make your garden smell terrible. No bird, animal or neighbor would appreciate it. They are considered an environmental hazard and can cause long term damage to the soil. Both active ingredients in mothballs - naphthalene and paradichlorobenzene are taken up by plants and retained in tissues when dissolved in the soil. The fruits and leaves of food plants that have been treated with mothballs may be toxic to pollinators and hummingbirds and people, depending on their level of exposure to these chemicals.