Identify It > Moth Section > Hummingbird Hawkmoths >
Scientific name: Macroglossum stellatarum
Size: Wingspan approximately 55mm
Distribution: Found throughout the U.K. (including the Shetland Islands) but the majority are seen in southern England
Months seen: Can be seen as early as March. It's possible some hibernate in Britain during the winter, but the majority fly in from North Africa and Europe between May and September
Life span: Adult moths can live for up to 6 months
Habitat: Gardens, parks and places with plenty of flowering plants and shrubs
Food: Nectar. The green caterpillars (seen between June and September) feed on bedstraws
Special features: Hummingbird Hawkmoths are a beautiful day-flying moth which are often seen in gardens feeding on geraniums, honeysuckle, petunias, buddleia or verbena. Their forewings wings are a dusty grey colour on the upper surfaces and the underwings (which are visible in flight) are bright orange. They are equipped with a very long tongue which they use to drink nectar whilst on the wing.
Just like real hummingbirds they hover in front of flowers as they feed. Their little orange wings flap so fast they appear to be on fire. They also make a throbbing noise as they hover.
In 1946, following WWII, there were large numbers of Hummingbird Hawkmoths seen in the UK. This was put down to all the bedstraw which had been left untrimmed during the war years, which provided the caterpillars with an abundance of food. Large numbers were also seen in the summer of 2003 following the hot dry conditions throughout Europe.
NOTE: Although real hummingbirds can be found throughout most of the Americas, they've never been found in the wild in the UK.
2013 - Sherborne, Gloucestershire - G. Bradley