Hawk moths are important pollinators of many different plant species and are often associated with orchids (Angraecum spp.), lavender (Lavandula spp.), luehea (Luehea spp.), sea daffodil (Pancratium maritimum), and phlox (Polemoniaceae spp.). In general, hawk moths pollinate plants that have flowers with the following traits: nocturnal flower opening, white or pale coloration, sweet fragrance, horizontal to pendant posture, abundant sucrose-rich nectar, and a long nectar tube. Hawk moths insert their tongues, and sometimes their bodies, into nectar tubes to collect nectar. In doing so, they incidentally touch the flower's anthers and stigmas, transferring pollen to the same and other blossoms. Nectar tubes and hawk moth tongue lengths are often associated - a shorter tongue than tube usually does not allow a hawk moth to collect nectar and a longer tongue than tube makes the hawk moth less effective at pollen removal and pollination. These relationships range from strong one-to-one tongue- and tube-length mutualisms to more general. Hawk moths have been documented with tongues up to 14 inches long! However, the average North American hawk moth tongue is 2 1/3 inches long with the average nectar tube of flowers pollinated by North American hawk moths just over 2 inches long.
- Diversity and Evolution of Tongue Length in Hawkmoths (Sphingidae), William E. Miller In: Journal of the Lepidopterists' Society, Volume 51, Number 1, 1997, pp. 9-31
- Celebrating Wildflowers: Hawk Moths or Sphinx Moths (Sphingidae) (USDA Forest Service)
- Hawk moth pollinators in papaya (D. Astridge, V. Hansen, and A. Morrisen, Queensland Government)
- The Sacred Datura (Saguaro Juniper Corporation)