Humming-bird Hawk-moths are amazing animals, which hover like tiny hummingbirds to drink nectar from flowers. They migrate to Britain from North Africa and southern Europe in May and June. They are able to breed here during the summer months but traditionally have not been able to survive our winters. This is changing and the Humming-bird Hawk-moth is an excellent indicator of the effects of climate change on our native wildlife
With climate change, the number of Humming-bird Hawk-moths arriving has increased and the moth is beginning to survive our warmer winters, at least in southern parts of Britain. They do this as adult moths and hibernating moths have been observed in unheated buildings, garages, porches etc. as well as in cracks in wall and holes in trees.
How to identify a Humming-bird Hawk-moth
The caterpillars of the Humming-bird Hawk-moth feed on Lady’s Bedstraw, Hedge Bedstraw and Wild Madder. They are distinguished by a ‘horn’ on the end of the green body, which confirms it as a hawk-moth caterpillar, and yellow stripes down the side identify it as a Humming-bird Hawk-moth. The caterpillars will pupate in a cocoon low in the vegetation or in leaf litter, and the adults emerge late in the autumn.
As its name suggests the adults of this species resemble hummingbirds as they fly rapidly between foodplants and hover to feed on tubular flowers of plants such as viper’s bugloss, red valerian, jasmine, petunia and the garden favourite; buddleia. The orange-brown hindwings and black and white chequered body can be seen in flight and, with its warm greyish-brown forewings, distinguish the Humming-bird Hawk-moth from the Bee Hawk-moths that exhibit similar flight characteristics. The Humming-bird Hawk-moth can be found in many habitats from coastal areas to gardens, woodland rides and townhouse window boxes.
With your help, we will track the arrival, spread and possible departure of this beautiful and exciting species during 2008.
Butterfly Conservation have organised a Humming-bird Hawk-moth survey so they can establish whether populations of the moths are increasing due to climate change.