Hummingbird hawk-moth

Macroglossum stellatarum

The hummingbird hawk-moth is a species of hawk moth found across temperate regions of Eurasia. The species is named for its similarity to hummingbirds, as they feed on the nectar of tube-shaped flowers using their long proboscis while hovering in the air; this resemblance is an example of convergent evolution.
Hummingbird hawk-moth (Macroglossum stellatarum) This is turning out to be a marvelous summer in the UK for this warm climate-loving moth. They are absolutely everywhere!

Just today I caught one in my hands to release it from my kitchen. No mean feat when this moth can beat its wings at 80 times/second and can fly at 12mph.

This is a classic example of convergent evolution, which has allowed this moth and real Hummingbirds to evolve entirely seperately, yet develop similar tools and traits.

However, those are not feathers you see in this photograph, but feather-like long hairs.

In common with other hovering insects, birds and bats, the Hummingbird hawk-moth generates lift by beating/rotating its wings in a shallow figure-eight pattern. This motion creates a spinning vortex of air on the upper surface of the wing, generating a well of low pressure. The higher pressure zone below the wing then pushes the moth upward, keeping it airborne. 

Insect wings are relatively rigid compared to birds or bats, so they do this less efficiently.

To compensate, this moth beats those wings at up to 80 times per second, compared to (most) humingbirds (c50 beats) and bats (c17 beats).

The Hummingbird hawk-moth belongs to the Sphinx moth family (Sphingidae), so-called because of their resemblance to the Egyptian Sphinx.

Most moths in this family are nocturnal, while the day-flying Hummingbird hawk-moth has developed eyes packed at the centre with photoreceptors cells, allowing it to capture detail of objects immediately in front of them. This allows them to accurately judge the distance and movement of wind-swaying flowers.

A short illustrative video, with a link to others is available here:

 Geotagged,Hummingbird hawk-moth,Macroglossum stellatarum,Summer,United Kingdom


The hummingbird hawk-moth was first described by Carl Linnaeus in his 1758 10th edition of "Systema Naturae". As of 2018, its entire genome and mitogenome have been sequenced.
Hummingbird Hawk Moth (Macroglossum stellatarum) I came across a purple Buddleia yesterday, which had more butterflies on it at one time, and fluttering around it, than I think I've ever seen one Buddleia attract in the past. I counted at least 9 species. 

I just had a feeling if I waited long enough a Hummingbird Hawk Moth would come calling, and so it did.

With wings, strong enough to allow it to fly in the rain, I could hear them hum every time the wind dropped.

A fascinating and beautiful moth mimic.

An accompanying video may be viewed here: Geotagged,Hummingbird hawk-moth,Macroglossum stellatarum,Moth Week 2020,United Kingdom


The hummingbird hawk-moth is distributed throughout the northern Old World from Portugal to Japan, but it breeds mainly in warmer climates. Three generations are produced in a year in Spain.

It is a strong flier, dispersing widely in the summer. However it rarely survives the winter in northern latitudes.

Moths in the genus "Hemaris", also of the family Sphingidae, are known as "hummingbird moths" in the US, and "bee moths" in Europe. This sometimes causes confusion between this species and the North American genus.
Macroglossum stellatarum Macroglossum stellatarum
The winter survival :) Hummingbird hawk-moth,Macroglossum stellatarum,arthropoda,biodiversity,insecta,lepidoptera,sphingidae


Two or more broods are produced each year. The adult may be encountered at any time of the year, especially in the south of the range, where there may be three or four broods. It overwinters as an adult in a crevice among rocks, trees, and buildings. On very warm days it may emerge to feed in mid-winter. Unlike other moths, they have no sexual dimorphism in the size of their antennal lobes.Its long proboscis ) and its hovering behavior, accompanied by an audible humming noise, make it look remarkably like a hummingbird while feeding on flowers. Like hummingbirds, it feeds on flowers which have tube-shaped corollae. It should not be confused with the moths called hummingbird moths in North America, genus "Hemaris", members of the same family and with similar appearance and behavior.
The resemblance to hummingbirds is an example of convergent evolution. It flies during the day, especially in bright sunshine, but also at dusk, dawn, and even in the rain, which is unusual for even diurnal hawkmoths. "M. stellatarum" engages in free hovering flight, which allows more maneuverability and control than fixed-wing flight, despite high energetic cost. Like many large insects, it relies upon Johnston's organs for body positioning information.
Macroglossum stellatarum Taubenschwänzchen Caterpillar on forage plant (Galium verrum) Geotagged,Hummingbird hawk-moth,Macroglossum stellatarum,Summer,Switzerland


Hummingbird hawk-moths can be easily seen in gardens, parks, meadows, bushes, and woodland edge, where the preferred food plants grow.

Their larvae usually feed on bedstraws or madders but have been recorded on other Rubiaceae and "Centranthus", "Stellaria", and "Epilobium".

Adults are particularly fond of nectar-rich flowers with a long and narrow calyx, since they can then take advantage of their long proboscis and avoid competition from other insects. Flowers with longer tubes typically present the feeding animal a higher nectar reward. Proboscis length is thought to have been evolutionarily impacted by the length of flower feeding tubes. Examples of such plants include "Centranthus", "Jasminum", "Buddleia", "Nicotiana", "Primula", "Viola", "Syringa", "Verbena", "Echium", "Phlox", and "Stachys". They are reported to trap-line, that is, to return to the same flower beds at about the same time each day.
Lilium martagon with Macroglossum stellatarum  Geotagged,Hummingbird hawk-moth,Macroglossum stellatarum,Summer,Switzerland


Newly hatched larvae are clear yellow, and in the second instar assume their green coloration. The larva is green with two grey stripes bordered in cream along the sides and with a horn at the rear end typical of sphingids. The horn is purplish red, changing to blue with an orange tip in the last instar. They feed fully exposed on the top of the host plant and rest in among a tangle of stems. Although dependent on warmth and sun, the larval stage can be as rapid as 20 days.
Hummingbird hawk-moth Hummingbird hawk-moth (Macroglossum stellatarum) fast flying butterfly  animal,beautiful,bloom,blooming,blossom,blue,butterfly,close,eating,fast,feeding,flight,flower,fly,flying,france,garden,germany,hawk,hawk-moth


Hummingbird hawk-moths have been seen as a lucky omen. In particular, a swarm of the moths was seen flying across the English Channel on D-Day, the day of the Normandy landings in the Second World War. These moths, along with other moths, are in the family Sphingidae because their larvae were thought to resemble the Egyptian Sphinx.


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