jasmine

Spot the beast 69

While trying to catch up with the next post about our time in Ethiopia, I present you with this beast captured in the video below. These are frequent visitors in our garden now that the jasmine is flowering. Nice beast but what is it?

Is this what you believe you saw?

At first I also thought I had seen a small hummingbird of the various species present at the farm. However, it was really too small for a bird.

A more careful look reveal it to be a moth that also drinks nectar!

The beast is a day-flying moth in the family Sphingidae described by Jacob Hübner in 1819. More specifically it is known as a Titan sphynx moth (Aellopos titan), a species described by by Pieter Cramer in 1777 [1].

The genus Aellopos occurs from the United States through Central America and down to Argentina and Uruguay in South America. It has a wingspan between 55 and 65 mm and it is dark brown with a distinctive wide white stripe across the abdomen.

The larvae of this moth feed on seven-year apple (Casasia clusiifolia), bottombush (Cephalanthus occidentalis) and white indigoberry (Randia aculeata) among others. They pupate in shallow underground chambers. The adults are around throughout the year in tropical areas, feeding on nectar of various flowers by rolling out their long proboscis, estimated at twice the length of their bodies.

They are fascinating insects to watch as they buzz rather loudly while moving actively between flowers. They are capable to beat their wings up to 70 times per second and they can fly at speeds of up to 20 kph. Their oversized and rather menacing eyes are meant to look like those of a bird so, do not feel bad if when you saw the video you did think it was a hummingbird as I also did!

[1] See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pieter_Cramer