If you have never come across a hummingbird hawk moth before then your first time may come as a bit of a shock, a pleasant one of course. The reason why is this, the hummingbird hawk moth is responsible for the largest number of mistaken identity cases of any animal within the British Isles. Unsurprisingly this would be the actual hummingbird.

Unlike the majority of moths you would come across, this one is already unusual by being active during daylight hours. However it’s most unusual feature – and the reason behind it miss-identification - is the way it flies. It beats its wings so fast that they are no more than a blur, and like a true hummingbird they are able to hover whilst feeding for nectar with a long uncoiled proboscis. To complete the illusion, the speed of their beating wings is such that they emit the trademark hum from which the hummingbird gets it name.
Compared to our native moths it’s much more colourful too. Its wings are coloured green or reddish brown, while its dark body is punctuated with dots and stripes of yellow and white

So how it has such an exotic species managed to find its way to our emerald shores. Abundant and resident in all Mediterranean countries, the Humming bird moth migratory habits are well documented with many thousands moving northwards in Europe during the spring. There is also evidence of a return migration in the autumn. Although they are known to successfully breed in this country, they are generally unable to survive our winters. This means that we are always reliant on new colonies coming up from southern France.

To increase your chances of attracting the hummingbird moth to your garden, there are a number of plants that you can add to your borders that can help to encourage them. Of particular importance is the Galium verum, more commonly known as Lady's Bedstraw or Yellow Bedstraw. This is the plant that the adults prefer to lay their eggs on, although they have also been known to hatch on Centranthus, Stellaria and Epilobium.

The hummingbird hawk moth is also known to have a remarkably good memory with individual moths returning to the same flower beds every day at about the same time. Again, by including in your borders the plants that they are known to be partial too, you can dramatically increase your chances of these moths visiting your area.

Due to their high energy needs they are strongly attracted to flowers with a plentiful supply of nectar. These would include plants such as the single flowered petunias, honeysuckle, buddleia, red valerian, honeysuckle, jasmine, lilac, Escallonia, and phlox. Sedum spectabile is popular but not the fancy varieties as they don't produce enough nectar. Also consider, Nicotiana, native Primula and viola varieties, Syringa, herbaceous and bedding Verbena, Echium, and Stachys. Happy fishing!

For related articles click onto the following links:
Butterfly conservation

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