It's not unusual for me to see hummingbirds sipping nectar from our plants during the summer months. But when I recently witnessed what I at first believed to be a hovering hummingbird taking nectar from a tiger lily, I had to look twice. Something about it just didn't look quite right
Although the unidentified flying object behaved like a hummingbird, it was too small and too brown. It couldn't have been a baby hummingbird, either, because hummingbirds can't fly until they reach adult size.
The UFO's 2-inch wingspan was also too small for it to have been a hummingbird, even though it flapped its wings so fast they were nearly invisible. Plus it didn't fly off when I got close enough to reach out and touch it. Then, when it turned to face me and I saw its antennae, I realized that it couldn't be a hummingbird, or any other type of bird, since birds don't have antennae. What was it?
The hummingbird moth
I was watching a Hemaris thysbe, a "hummingbird moth," also known as a "hummingbird clearwing," feasting on nectar. About 2 inches long, it's gigantic for a moth.
Seeing moths and butterflies fluttering around our garden makes me nervous, by the way, because, although they look attractive and are relaxing to watch, adults lay eggs that turn into caterpillars, and caterpillars can defoliate plants.
Although adult hummingbird moths sip nectar — with a long, retractable proboscis — pollinating plants in the process, their caterpillars defoliate cherries, honeysuckles, hawthorns, plums and viburnums.
Although identifying the UFO as a huge moth made me a little nervous, I was nevertheless impressed by its aerobatics, speed and alien-like appearance. It's welcome back any time.
This week in the garden
Last summer, every onion I grew spoiled before it could be stored as a result of too much rain toward the end of their growing season. This summer, our onions look great.
Last summer, we harvested more zucchinis from a single plant than I thought was possible. This summer, we haven't harvested any zucchinis, due to a heat wave and insufficient rain.
Certain weather conditions favor particular plants, and since weather conditions can vary greatly from year to year, I mitigate disappointments by growing as many different types of plants as I have room for.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun