I get excited each year when the red valerian flowers open in the garden for no other reason than I know that the Humming-bird Hawk Moths love it and if I look out early morning or evening I have a chance of spotting one.
Humming-bird Hawk Moths, Macroglossum stellatarum, migrate from Africa and are becoming a much more common sight in the UK as the climate warms. 2011 was a very good year for them in the UK and the Butterfly Conservation organisation are again keen to gather statistics for UK sightings for 2015 (see this link: Butterfly Conservation Migrant Watch).
On Monday I spotted my first one for this year, at Wimpole, but it was feeding on Nepeta and was darting around too much for me to get a picture. Fortunately, they are starting to appear in the garden as well and the Valerian (Centranthus ruber) that has self-seeded all round the house is a favourite stop for it. Red Valerian is so densely packed with deep throated flowers that the moth doesn’t move too far between sips. This morning the conditions were excellent (no wind/sun) and so I was able to get a few pictures, including this one of the uncurled proboscis:
The moth does breed regularly in the UK, in July and August, and it’s favourite food plant is Galium (bedstraw) and Rubia (wild madder). Mostly, they don’t make it through UK winters though.
So if you spot one, don’t forget to register the sighting with Butterfly Conservation!