Moths of North Carolina
Scientific Name:
Common Name:
Family (Alpha):
« »
View PDFSphingidae Members:
Hemaris Members:
3 NC Records

Hemaris gracilis (Grote & Robinson, 1865) - Slender Clearwing Moth

view caption
Superfamily: Bombycoidea Family: SphingidaeSubfamily: MacroglossinaeTribe: DilophonotiniP3 Number: 890178.00 MONA Number: 7854.00
Comments: A Holarctic genus of 19 species of which 4 occur in North America and 3 in North Carolina. They are often called hummingbird or bumblebee moths, and are among the best known Sphingids to North Carolinians.
Field Guide Descriptions: Covell (1984)Online Photographs: MPG, BugGuide, GBIF, BOLDTechnical Description, Adults: Forbes (1948); Hodges (1971); Tuttle (2007)Technical Description, Immature Stages: Williams (1979); Tuttle (2007)                                                                                 
Adult Markings: A hummingbird mimic that is slightly smaller but otherwise similar in coloration to Hemaris thysbe. Differs from H. thysbe in having an even rather than ragged outer edge of the clear area on the forewings. The cell also has no line of scales through it and the underside has two bands of red running from the eyes to the abdomen; the legs are reddish instead of whitish. Smaller than H. diffinis and has a green rather than a yellowish thorax. Sexes are similar.
Wingspan: 4 - 4.5 cm (Covell, 1984)
Adult ID Requirements: Identifiable from good quality photos of unworn specimens.
Immatures and Development: According to Williams (1979), larvae are similar to those of Hemaris thysbe but "the head and body are smoother, the prothoracic shield narrower and smoother, the horn shorter and the dark pale-edged dorsal line absent."
Larvae ID Requirements: Identifiable from good quality photos, especially where associated with known host plants.
Distribution in North Carolina
Distribution: Primarily a northern species. Hemaris gracilis has a peculiar distribution, occurring across most of Canada and then down the coast in a narrow band at least to Florida.
County Map: Clicking on a county returns the records for the species in that county.
Flight Dates:
 High Mountains (HM) ‚Č• 4,000 ft.
 Low Mountains (LM) < 4,000 ft.
 Piedmont (Pd)
 Coastal Plain (CP)

Click on graph to enlarge
Flight Comments: Single brooded. Our only two records are both from the spring.
Habitats and Life History
Habitats: There is not enough information to determine its habitat use in North Carolina. The specimen from Carteret County was found along a logging road running through a regenerating stand of Loblolly, with patches of Wild Azalea present as nectar sources (JBS, pers. obs.). Generally, gracilis is associated with xeric heathlands and seems to have some affinity for sand barrens habitats (D. Schweitzer, pers. comm.) Vaccinium vacillans (= pallidum in Weakley, 2015) is widespread in the eastern United States, occurring especially on xeric wooded slopes.
Larval Host Plants: Stenophagous, reported from blueberries and perhaps other heaths. Forbes (1948) mentioned the possible use of Kalmia and Williams (1979) observed oviposition on Low Bush Blueberry (Vaccinium vacillans) and subsequently reared larvae on it. Adults were also observed by Williams nectaring on Low Bush Blueberry. - View
Observation Methods: The species is diurnal and does not fly at night, come to lights or bait. Should be looked for during the day nectaring on flowers.
See also Habitat Account for Coastal Plain Wet-Dry Heath Thickets
Status in North Carolina
Natural Heritage Program Status: SR
Natural Heritage Program Ranks: G3G4 S1S2
State Protection: Listed as Significantly Rare by the Natural Heritage Program. That designation, however, does not confer any legal protection, although permits are required to collect it on state parks and other public lands.
Comments: We currently have just three records for this species in North Carolina, all from a small area along the southern coast. Based on the freshness of the specimen recorded in 2016 by Mark Shields, this species appears to breed in North Carolina, rather than just occasionally migrating into our area. Why this species is so rarely observed is unknown, although it is likely to be confused with the two other species in this genus.

 Photo Gallery for Hemaris gracilis - Slender Clearwing Moth

Photos: 2

Recorded by: Mark Shields on 2016-04-16
Onslow Co.
Comment: Found in an area with lots wild blueberries (Vaccinium), as well as dwarf azaleas, fetterbush (Leucothoe and Lyonia), and some Kalmia.
Recorded by: T.B. Mitchell on 1950-04-27
Pender Co.
Comment: Specimen in the NCSU Insect Museum