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moth Hummingbird Hawkmoths

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.

Sightings

2013 - Sherborne, Gloucestershire - G. Bradley

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