variants or hawkmoth
: any of a family (Sphingidae) of large, stout-bodied, swift-flying moths that are sometimes active during the day and have long, narrow, more or less pointed forewings, small hind wings, and a very long proboscis which at rest is kept coiled and are typically capable of hovering while feeding on the nectar of flowers

Note: Many hawk moths lack scales on their wings and are usually called clearwings. Because of a hornlike extension on their hind end, larvae of the hawk moth are often referred to as hornworms and include pests destructive to crops and ornamental plants.

called also sphinx moth

Examples of hawk moth in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web The fragrance’s weakening translated directly into two different hawk moth species visiting the artificial primrose less and less. Christian Thorsberg, Smithsonian Magazine, 12 Feb. 2024 The hawk moth, with its ultra-long proboscis, will stop by for a nectar snack. Paris Wolfe, cleveland, 27 Jan. 2023 Various insects, including the hawk moth, can jam bat sonar systems by overwhelming them with sound. Meredith Carpenter, Discover Magazine, 31 Jan. 2014 The radar beams used to detect insects can be 60 to 100 feet across, big enough to capture lots of individual organisms flying past, whereas lidar beams span only a few inches—about the size of a single hawk moth. Daniel Lingenhöhl, Scientific American, 8 Sep. 2022 Despite contemporaries’ scoffing, Darwin was proved right when the orchid’s pollinator, the hawk moth, was discovered decades later in Madagascar, the orchid’s native habitat. Nicole Sours Larson, San Diego Union-Tribune, 12 Mar. 2022 In order to create a sort of moth-drone cyborg, mechanical engineer Melanie Anderson of the University of Washington cold-anesthetized a hawk moth in a freezer before removing its antennae. Matt Simon, Wired, 4 Jan. 2021 It’s all thanks to the sacrifice of the hawk moth Manduca sexta, which is an extremely sensitive smeller, like other moths. Matt Simon, Wired, 4 Jan. 2021 Researchers have interpreted a nearby red figure as an insect—possibly a hawk moth, known to become intoxicated on datura nectar drawn through its long proboscis—perhaps here a symbolic stand-in for the datura-taker. Megan Gannon, National Geographic, 23 Nov. 2020

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'hawk moth.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1785, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of hawk moth was in 1785

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Cite this Entry

“Hawk moth.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 May. 2024.

Kids Definition

hawk moth

: any of numerous moths with a stout body, long narrow pointed front wings, and small hind wings

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