Hummingbird Clearwing Moth 60fps

A few days ago I was in my backyard waiting in vain for a hummingbird to visit when I noticed something hovering around one of our butterfly bushes. I grabbed my camera and went to investigate. Rather than photographing a hummingbird at 60fps as I had planned, Mother Nature sent a Hummingbird Clearwing Moth instead.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm efov 810mm, F/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-720
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm efov 810mm, F/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-720

The Hummingbird Clearwing Moth moth is supposed to be quite common throughout the eastern half of the United States and much of Canada, but I had never seen one before.

I was fortunate to be able to capture a couple of image runs at 60 frames per second using my Nikon 1 V2. The next three images are the initial consecutive images in one of the bursts.

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm efov 810mm, F/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-1250
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm efov 810mm, F/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-1250

The scientific name for this moth is Hemaris thysbe. It is a fairly large moth with a wingspan of 4 cm to 5.5 cm.

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm efov 810mm, F/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-1250
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm efov 810mm, F/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-1250

These moths drink nectar from a wide variety of plants such as beebalm, red clover, lilac, cranberry, blueberry, and thistles to name a few.

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm efov 810mm, F/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-1250
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm efov 810mm, F/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-1250

They feed and fly during the daytime, hovering in front of a flower when feeding the way that hummingbirds do.

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm efov 810mm, F/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-1250
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm efov 810mm, F/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-1250

There are four species of hummingbird moths in North America with the Hummingbird Clearwing Moth and the Snowberry Clearwing being the most common.

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm efov 810mm, F/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-1250
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm efov 810mm, F/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-1250

There are various species of hummingbird moths in Europe, North Africa and across Asia. In Britain they are commonly called Hummingbird Hawk-moths.

The next time you have a small, thick bodied critter hovering around your flowers check it out. It may not be a hummingbird at all, but rather a hummingbird moth.

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12 thoughts on “Hummingbird Clearwing Moth 60fps”

  1. Dear Thomas,
    Before an year or so, I had been to my friends place on western coast of India. One morning, I had photographed and videoed this one ‘very small bird’ and was lost at as no one could let me know what it was though I was sure it was not an humming bird. Through your blog I came to know its true name and what it is.
    Thanks for the wonderful snaps and details!

    1. Hi Vinayak,
      I’m glad the article was helpful for you! I had no idea that my images were of a Hummingbird Clearwing Moth until I did some research and got some input from friends.
      Tom

  2. Hi Tom –

    Again, interesting post! I decided to bite the bullet and picked up a very unused V3 to augment the V1. That J5 does give great clarity and detail, indeed.

    With your 60 FPS, how did you set up the rest of your shots? Did you set all your exposure factors to M, using the 1/1600, 1250 iso and f5.6 by choice? What was your auto exposure set to? Tracking or . . . .??

    Cheers & thanks –
    Naomi

    1. Hi Naomi,
      I had my Nikon 1 V2 set for Manual exposure and used Auto-ISO 160-3200. I set my shutter speed to 1/1600 (in retrospect I should have gone a bit faster) and aperture to f/5.6. The Auto-ISO then arrived at ISO-1250. Focus was set to AF-C with subject tracking. I used 60fps in AF-C. This setting uses the first frame to lock focus for all subsequent images in the run so I waited until the moth was hovering to feed to get my images. I also used center weighted average metering.
      Tom

  3. Great photos! In Europe we have a similar species, the Hummingbird hawk-moth (Macroglossum stellatarum). A detail from Wikipedia: “Hummingbird hawk-moths have been seen as a lucky omen. In particular, a swarm of the moths was seen flying across the English Channel on D-Day, the day of the Normandy landings in the Second World War.”

    After the import of hummingbirds became illegal in Europe, occasions for seeing a living individuum here are rare, there are only half a dozen zoos in Germany, Netherlands and France who hold them. If someone claims to have seen a “hummingbird” in the wild, it’s almost always a Hummingbird hawk-moth. With their origin in the mediterranean, they appear in Germany only in September.

    That’s why your hummingbird photos are a particular pleasure to see.

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