Five Spotted Hawkmoth

Every evening as the last rays of sun dwindle down in the sky, I look out from my back patio door. What I see visiting my nicotiana’s every night, looks like a hummingbird, but it’s actually a moth!

Every day at about dusk, a Five Spotted Hawkmoth visits the nicotiana by my back patio. It likes to feed on the nectar from its fragrant, long, white, tubular flowers.

Even while I’m standing right beside it, it doesn’t pay any attention to me watching it. It has really large eyes and a long proboscis in order to get the nectar located down in the tubular flower. The nicotiana is the only flower I’ve seen it feed on in my yard.

There are different species of hawk, or sphinx moths all around the world of the Sphingid family. They are fast flyers and acrobatic too. I see my visitor in my yard whip around the plants and over the fence and back again. Many species can hover in place like a hummingbird. Many species like fragrant light colored flowers, such as nicotiana, four o clocks, or datura.

Not all, but some of these hawk moths are considered pests. And guess what, the Five Spotted Hawkmoth is actually also known as a tomato hornworm! I plant lots of tomatoes every year, and it’s rare that I’ve seen any hornworms on my plants. I saw one in the early summer, but a parasitic wasp took care of the hornworm for me!

These non-stinging parasitic wasps actually look like a type of fly to an untrained eye. The wasp lays its eggs inside the caterpillar to use as a host (as it will do to any species of caterpillar) and the larvae hatches into what looks like bits of rice.

Dead tomato hornworm with parasitic wasp larvae

I don’t have an issue with hornworms, so I’m not worried about seeing this hawkmoth in my garden. I’d rather the hornworms be used by the parasitic wasp as its host instead of the monarch or swallowtail caterpillars that are around in my yard too.