Tag Archives: hummingbird

Hummingbird Hawkmoth

I’ve been seeing and photographing so much wildlife lately I actually thought I might run out of creatures to blog about this week – but it looks like I was wrong. Today I could hear what sounded like a lawnmower in the polytunnel in my garden, and when I went to investigate I found this awesome little creature blundering into the walls and roof, its wings a blur:

Looks like a rather plain moth on the smaller side of the large moth spectrum, but look more closely.
Looks like a rather plain moth on the smaller side of the large moth spectrum, but look more closely.
Very strong wings with quite handsome stripes on them, but look at rear-end, it has what looks like a short feathery tail... like a bird. And that's the giveaway.
Very strong wings with quite handsome stripes on them, but look at rear-end, it has what looks like a short feathery tail… like a bird. And that’s the giveaway.

This powerful moth is the famous Hummingbird Hawkmoth, Macroglossum stellatarum. Hawkmoths are so-called because they’re powerful fliers, and the Hummingbird Hawkmoth is powerful even by hawkmoth standards. Many people believe they are seeing actual hummingbirds in Wicklow, but what they are actually seeing are these moths, which fly about feeding on flowers by hovering in front of them without landing. They can do this for hours. The long tongue (the ‘macro glossum’) looks like a long thin black beak, and they eyes of the moth are even bird-like, as you can see in this close-up:

Look at that eye - it's hard to believe this is an insect.
Look at that eye – it’s hard to believe this is an insect.

After releasing the moth I soon found it again feeding on the many flowers of the garden, paricularly those of the Escalonia hedge and the Beauty Bush, and I did just about manage to get one decent shot which shows just how like a hummingbird this magnificent moth really is:

When is a hummingbird not a hummingbird? Here you can see when. The moth's antennae are clearly visible in this shot, but not so easy to see with the naked eyes as it hovers along the flowers feeding on the nectar.
When is a hummingbird not a hummingbird? Here you can see when. The moth’s antennae are clearly visible in this shot, but not so easy to see with the naked eye as it hovers along the flowers feeding on the nectar.