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Sphynx Moths flying around Thistle

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Published on Jul 19, 2010

Sphingidae is a family of moths (Lepidoptera) commonly known as hawk moths, sphinx moths and hornworms.

Some hawk moths, like the hummingbird hawk moth, hover in midair while they feed on nectar from flowers and are sometimes mistaken for hummingbirds. This hovering capability has evolved only three times in nectar feeders: in hummingbirds, certain bats, and these sphingids (Kitching, 2002) (an example of convergent evolution). Sphingids have been much studied for their flying ability, especially their ability to move rapidly from side to side while hovering, called 'swing-hovering.' It is thought that this evolved to deal with ambush predators that lie in wait in flowers (Kitching, 2002).

Some of the sphingids are some of the fastest flying insects, capable of flying at over 50 km/h (30 miles per hour). They have a wingspan of 35-150 mm.

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