Sphinx Moth Feeding on a Lilac Bush

October 28, 2021

White-lined Sphinx Moth 1-250th sec. White-llined Sphinx Moth  1-800th sec.

Photographer: George Seielstad

Summary Author: George Seielstad

A white-lined sphinx moth (Hyles lineata) buzzed a lilac bush where I was working in Missoula, Montana. Several aspects of the moth’s behavior surprised me. Firstly, it was flying in broad daylight, not in the evening when moths are typically most active. Secondly, the moth ignored my presence entirely while I photographed it feeding. Third, it fed for several minutes on the lilac flowers.  But last and most impressively was the number of wingbeats per second the sphinx moth generated without rest.

Exposure for the first photo was 1/250th second (left picture). The blurred wings record wingbeats exceeding 250 per second.  Even a second photo at 1/800th second shows slightly blurry wings (right picture). The effort to feed must be enormous, so the source of food itself must be rich.  Thankfully our lilac bush fulfilled the job. Photo taken June 8, 2021.

Photo data: Nikon D500, f/8, (left picture) ISO-800, 1/250 second, 280 mm focal length, (right picture) ISO-2000, 1/800 second, 300 mm focal length

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