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Entomology (Study of Bugs)/Yellow and black flying insect

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Question
I found an insect approx 5.5 cm in size that was flying around my bee balm in eastern pa. It had large antenna, large yellow patch covering half of its back, then a black strip across its mid section then a yellow strip again then it almost looked like it had tail feathers. It moved realitivly slowly through the flowers until a breeze came along and blew it away. It had long legs. I thought it was a small hummingbird at first when I looked at the tail until I saw the antenna. It was seen at approx 1000 in the morning. Can you identify it by this description? It is beautiful.

Answer
Ann:

You are describing a type of sphinx moth in the genus Hemaris .  There are several species, so I'll direct you to this link to start with:

http://bugguide.net/node/view/2637

They are supposed to mimic bumble bees, but they do hover like hummingbirds.  The "lobster tail" is a giveaway that they are sphinx moths in this genus.

Eric

Entomology (Study of Bugs)

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Eric R. Eaton

Expertise

I answer insect and spider identification questions ONLY. Attach images if possible. No "what bit me?", "what do I feed this bug in captivity?", or science fair project questions please. NO TECHNICAL QUESTIONS ABOUT INSECT PHYSIOLOGY.

Experience

Principal author, Kaufman Field Guide to Insects of North America. Professional entomologist employed previously at University of Massachusetts, Chase Studio, Inc., and Cincinnati Zoo; contract work for West Virginia Department of Natural Resources, Smithsonian Institution, and Portland (Oregon) State University.

Publications
Author, Kaufman Field Guide to Insects of North America, Missouri Conservationist magazine, Ranger Rick, Birds & Blooms, Timeline (journal of the Ohio Historical Society). I have contributed to several books as well.

Education/Credentials
Oregon State University, undergraduate major in entomology, did not receive degree.

Awards and Honors
One of the top 50 experts in all categories for AllExperts.com, 2009.

Past/Present Clients
Principal author of the Kaufman Field Guide to Insects of North America, Smithsonian Institution (contract), Cincinnati Zoo (employer), Portland State University (contract), Chase Studio, Inc (employer), Arkansas Museum of Discovery (guest speaker). Currently seeking speaking engagements, leadership roles at nature festivals, workshops, and ecotours.

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