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Monday, Jan. 13, 2003

ANIMAL TRACKER

Bee hawkmoth


* Japanese name: Sukibahoujyaku
* Scientific name: Hemaris radians
* Description: Bee hawkmoths belong to the moth family Sphingidae. They are large moths (wingspan 37-40 mm) able to fly at high speeds (hence the name hawkmoth). Caterpillars are bright green and recognizable by the black spine on the last segment of the body. Adults have a heavily furred body, orange with black stripes, mimicking that of a bee. The head has large compound eyes, the thorax is also large and the abdomen protrudes beyond the hindwings when the insect flies. The forewings are longer than the hindwings
* Where to find them: Adults can be seen flying from May to late July. Caterpillars feed until autumn, when they pupate in soil. Bee hawkmoths and the caterpillars can be seen in parks, gardens, open woodland and grassy meadows. Unlike many other moths, which are nocturnal, bee hawkmoths fly during daylight, particularly at dawn and dusk. When resting, the wings are held rooflike over the body.
* Food: Nectar from trumpet-shaped flowers. The excellent flying ability of bee hawkmoths allows them to sip nectar from flowers using their haustellum (tongue), which is kept tightly coiled when the insect is not feeding. The tongue is at least as long as the moth's body. Caterpillars eat the leaves of plants and can be serious pests of crops such as tomatoes.
* Special features: The caterpillars, growing up to 5 cm long, raise their ferocious-looking black horn when startled and face the disturbance head on. This sphinx posture gives the family its scientific name of Sphingidae. The stance helps protect the caterpillar against possible predators such as birds, but the adults rely on mimicry. The large body with its thick, beelike fur means that bee hawkmoths must expend lots of energy in order to fly, but the benefit of that extra effort is great: The resemblance to bees prevents many predators from attacking the moths.



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