Record summer for ‘hummingbirds’ in UK gardens - British Trust for Ornithology (BTO)

Hummingbird Hawkmoth © Jill Pakenham
Hummingbird Hawkmoth © Jill Pakenham

Data from the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) Garden BirdWatch survey, carried out by volunteers across the UK,
show a fourfold increase in the number of gardens recording a Hummingbird Hawkmoth, making 2022 a record year.
These large, colourful insects are often mistaken for hummingbirds because of the way they hover over flowers and use their long tongues to drink the nectar.

You are mostly likely to see a Hummingbird Hawkmoth in the UK during July and August. Last month, 5.2% of Garden BirdWatch gardens recorded a visit from a Hummingbird Hawkmoth, compared to just 1.3% in a typical year, while the proportion rose to 7.5% in southeast England. In Scotland, where the species is much rarer, it was reported from 1.2% of gardens, more than three times the summer average.

Hummingbird Hawkmoths are particularly fond of pink and purple flowers like Buddleia, Red Valerian and Vipers Bugloss. Watching these plants on warm, sunny days is the best way to spot one yourself. Just look out for a chunky moth with orange wing patches and black stripes on its body.

The influx probably has its origins in the current long spell of warm, southerly winds that carry the moths north from their Mediterranean strongholds. There is also a possibility that rising temperatures mean a growing number are able to overwinter in the UK: in suitable conditions, Hummingbird Hawkmoths will spend the colder months tucked away in thick vegetation, a tree hollow or even a garden shed.

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Posted On: 10/08/2022

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