Amazing little hummers !

The hummingbird hawkmoth.

Usually seen as just a brown blur, this species of hawk moth is often a summer migrant from the Continent and is sometimes able to survive our winters as an adult in the warmer counties of the south. Migrants to the UK start to arrive here in May; they breed here and usually have more than one brood, sometimes adults can emerge as late as the end of October. The food plants for egg laying are the bedstraws like Lady’s bedstraw (Galium verum) and Hedge bedstraw (Galium mollugo). The caterpillar is bright green with yellowish and blue stripes and a rather strange bluish thorn at the rear end. They are so camouflaged and hard to spot but are sometimes found on the bedstraw plants in August. The caterpillar forms it’s pupa on the ground amongst the plant debris and they start to emerge throughout the late summer.

The adults are day fliers and on a warm summer day are amazing to watch as they hover over flowers probing the blossoms with their really long tongues. They like the flowers of red and pink valerian and are also attracted to buddleias, I have seen several this summer on my own garden buddleia. The flight is so fast they look like a blur of orange and grey with a black and white pattern on the body. They are such strong fliers, sometimes with a faint humming sound and can suddenly appear and disappear so quickly that the eye can hardy follow them! Maybe as our climate starts to warm and with less cold winters in the south the hummingbird hawk could stay with us all year round.

Report by Colin Strudwick.