A whitelined sphinx hummingbird moth makes a beeline for a Rose of Sharon in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. (photo/Cindy Hadish)

This is the time of year that gardeners notice larger spiders and interesting insects, including one that resembles a hummingbird.

Hummingbird moths, the common name for hawk or sphinx moths, are often mistaken for hummingbirds, with the rapid pulse of the moth’s wings resembling that of its namesake.

Whitelined sphinx is one of the many varieties of hummingbird moths commonly seen in Iowa. Gardeners who notice a large dark hornworm defoliating their tomatoes or other plants may be tempted to do away with the caterpillar, but the moths are important pollinators, so consider it worth the sacrifice of a plant or two.

About 125 different species of sphinx moths exist in the U.S. and Canada.

The moths are harmless, so there is no need to use chemicals or otherwise try to eliminate them. Iowa State University’s Department of Entomology offers more information about hummingbird moths.

Learn about another interesting insect: the praying mantis

A whitelined sphinx hummingbird moth finds nectar in a Rose of Sharon blossom. (photo/Cindy Hadish)