Entomology (Study of Bugs)/Bug's Identity


QUESTION: Once in a while I see this strange bug flying around our flowers. I live in SW Michigan, about 3 miles from Lake Michigan.  This is a large insect, black (except for it's wings) and it looks fuzzy.  It has a long tongue (I presume for collecting nectar). It is quite noisy when it flies, making a buzzing sound.

ANSWER: Dear Sue - Without being able to see an image, I can only surmise that it most likely is one of the sphinx moths (Lepidoptera: Sphingidae) known as hummingbird moths. Have a look at the images on this page (http://tinyurl.com/87e4269) to see if anything comes close. Concentrate more on size and shape than color; moths and many other insects can vary considerably in color pattern within the same species. If after going through these you believe that you saw something other than a sphinx moth, please get back to me with a detailed description as to how yours differs, and if at all possible, include a photo (Note: These moths are notoriously difficult to photograph clearly).
Hope this helps,

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Saugy, have you ever heard of Saugatuck, Michigan?  Anyway< I don't think it is a moth at all.  It was more like a bee and wings more like a dragonfly.  Sorry, that would have been more helpful before I suppose.  It was the weirdest looking thing.  Haven't seen it again in a couple years.

Dear Sue - No, I must admit not hearing of Saugatuck, Michigan before, but I do know that some of our family resided at least for a while in Michigan during the late 19th century. In British Columbia, there's a Mt. Saugstad, named for a cousin of my great-grandfather who helped found the city of Bella Coola. All that aside, I still believe that it is possible that you saw a sphinx moth in the genus Hemaris. They have only a few scales on their wings, and the wings may appear virtually clear when they are in flight. See the description at http://tinyurl.com/k4fwyx8 and see what you think.


Entomology (Study of Bugs)

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Ed Saugstad


Will accept most questions in general entomology, including those related to medical entomology, taxonomy, ecology, arthropod surveillance, and pest management. If you are requesting a 'mystery bug' identification, PLEASE either attach an image to your question, or post an image on a web page (such as Flickr) so that I can look at it, as verbal descriptions frequently are insufficient for a definitive identification.


21 years in the U.S. Army as a medical entomologist; duties varied from surveillance of pest populations (including mosquitoes, cockroaches, ticks, and stored products pests) to conducting research on mosquito-virus ecological relationships and mosquito faunal studies. Ten years as a civilian analyst for the Department of Defense, primarily on distribution of vector-borne diseases worldwide. Limited experience on surveillance of agricultural insects in North Dakota and Indiana.

Entomological Society of America, West Virginia Entomological Society, Society for Vector Ecology, National Speleological Society, West Virginia Association for Cave Studies.

American Journal of Public Health, Contributions of the American Entomological Institute, Japanese Journal of Sanitary Zoology, Journal of Economic Entomology, Mosquito News, and Mosquito Systematics.

B.S. in entomology from North Dakota State University in 1963, M.S. in entomology from Purdue University in 1967.

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