Species: Hummingbird Hawk Moth (Macroglossum stellatarum)

Family: Hawk Moths (SPHINGIDAE)

Category: Butterflies & Moths

Location: Widespread

A. Butterflies & Moths

B. Hawk Moths (SPHINGIDAE)

There are 9 resident hawk moths in the British Isles, and 9 others fly in as immigrants, but the early breeding stages are unable to survive a cold winter. This family includes our largest moths, which are called hawk moths because of their fast, agile flight.

C. Hummingbird Hawk Moth (Macroglossum stellatarum)

The flight of this moth resembles that of the humming bird as it hovers, and flits rapidly between tubular flowers. It is seen from April until December, but most commonly in August and September. It will hibernate as an adult in warm areas such as south-west England.

In flight, hovering in front of flowers, these insects are dramatic. Their 'tails' are fringed with white dashes, and they have bright orange hindwings.

To see this close-up, you can hear Sir David Attenborough narrate glorious footage of the relationship between the Hummingbird Hawk Moth and Red Valerian in Episode 1 of Wild Isles on the BBC iPlayer. (Advance to the 18 minute 45 second mark.)


Hummingbird Hawk Moth

Hummingbird Hawk Moths are rarely seen stationary, more usually being seen flitting from flower to flower at speed. This one rested briefly on a headstone before zipping about too quickly to be better photographed.

Their long proboscis is rolled up in flight, and flowers with long tubular blossoms, such as Red Valerian, Buddleia and Viper's Bugloss, are ideal sources of nectar.