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Hummingbird hawk-moth

Macroglossum stellatarum

The moth is named after its resemblance to a hummingbird, with its rapid hovering motion as it feeds on the nectar of flowers.

Physical Description
The larvae/caterpillars grow to about 60mm in length. They are very colourful with a green or reddish-brown body with white dots and dark, white and yellow stripes, black spiracles and a blue, yellow-tipped horn. The sexes are similar in appearance. The moth itself is often mistaken for a hummingbird as it hovers above the flowers. The moths have a brown, white-spotted abdomen, brown forewings and orange hindwings. They have a wingspan of 40-50 mm. The wings beat so fast that they produce an audible hum.

Distribution
Hummingbird hawk-moths are abundant in Mediterranean countries, Central Asia and Japan. In the British Isles they can be spotted every year in the summer from June to September and have been recorded as far north as the Orkney and Shetland Islands.

Habitat
They inhabit lowland areas.

Diet
The larvae feed on bedstraw (Galium). The adult moths are day-flyers and feed on the nectar of flowers such as orchids and petunias. They feed by hovering in front of a flower, probing it repeatedly using the proboscis.

Behaviour
Hummingbird hawk-moths are day fliers, preferring bright sunlight, but may also be seen at dawn and dusk and rarely at night. They are strongly attracted to flowers with a plentiful supply of nectar such as petunias, honeysuckle and buddleia. Studies have noted that have a remarkable memory, and return to the same flowerbeds at the same time everyday. They cannot survive the winter months and so migrate to southern parts of Europe.

Reproduction
They breed regularly in the UK. Moths locate their mates by scent, with sight playing a small part. Hummingbird hawk-moths have been seen to demonstrate aerial courtship chases, with the male and female engaging in rapid pursuits low over the ground, or spiral upwards together.

Conservation status
They are not listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

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