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moth Humming-bird Hawk-moths

Identify It >   Moth Section >   Humming-bird Hawk-moths >


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 7 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:  Humming-bird Hawk-moths 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 Humming-bird Hawk-moths 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.

Humming-bird Hawk-moths breed in the UK each summer.  Despite growing to around 60mm in length (almost 2.4 inches) their caterpillars are extremely well camouflaged and rarely seen.  They feed on Bedstraws, and can be found between June and October.  They are a yellow-green colour with two prominent white lines running from the head to the tail.  At the tail end there is a short blue-black coloured horn with an orange tip.

NOTE: Although real hummingbirds can be found throughout most of the Americas, they've never been found in the wild in the UK.

Sightings

2013 - Sherborne, Gloucestershire - G. Bradley
2014 - Devon - Beryl Ladd
2014 - West Yorkshire - Rob Hill

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