Skip to main content

Hummingbird Hawk Moth

Macroglossum stellatarum

Hummingbird Hawk Moth

A close up image of a hummingbird hawk moth Macroglossum stellatarum dorsal and ventral view to scale against a black background

Macroglossum stellatarum MHNT CUT 2010 0 234 Autouillet male

by Didier Descouens. CC BY-SA 4.0

1 of 14
Macroglossum stellatarum is a migratory moth which begins its journey in northern Africa and southern Spain. It was once thought that the presence of this insect was a symbol of good news! Their abundance in the British Isles and northern Europe is condition-dependent. They are most likely to be sighted in the southern parts of the British Isles, with most being seen near coastal habitat types. Caterpillars are most active in June through to October, with moths being present all throughout summer and some of spring and autumn.
Free download for your phone or tablet
Download on the App StoreGet it on Google Play

Traits

These moths are important pollinators and a joy to observe in the garden.

Appearance

Adult: A pretty moth which appears extremely bird-like at a glance. The hindwings can be striking orange or a dull brown (or anywhere in between). The hindwings are grey-brown (wingspan: 2- 2.5cm). Likewise, the abdominal scales can vary in hue and quantity, displaying tones of browns, greys, oranges, whites and blacks. They possess thick black antennae and long tongues for feeding. The rear wing scales are long, like tufts, like the tail feathers of a bird. Larvae: Big, yellowish-green and chunky. The whole bodies are covered in white speckles, and there are black spots which run down both lateral sides, along with 2 yellow-creamy longitudinal stripes. The caterpillars possess 3 pairs of legs near the head and 4 pairs of prolegs in the middle section of the body, with a final 1 pair at the rear. They possess a long fleshy spike at the rear of the body, which comprises blue speckles and a yellow-brown tip. Pupae: A deep red-brown and cigar-shaped. Egg: The eggs are laid singularly and are off-white yellow, laid on the leaves of the caterpillar food plant.

Symptoms

Heavy infestations can result in plant die back, stunting growth. Leaves may be ripped, torn, or eaten completely. Large and chunky green caterpillars on plants.

Activity

Diurnal

Personality

Order

Lepidoptera

Family

Sphingidae

Metamorphosis

Complete

Distribution

North Africa and Europe, including the British Isles

Biological treatment

Moths can be important pollinators, they're also a vital resource for garden wildlife, like bats, reptiles, and other predatory insects. Unfortunately, the larvae, or caterpillars, can sometimes be pests in years where conditions are optimum for breeding. If in high abundance, caterpillars may be picked off garden plants using gloves and relocated.

Chemical treatment

It's thought that damage caused by these moths is tolerable. These caterpillars tend to be controlled by natural enemies. If these insects are bugging you, or you have an infestation that's too hard to manage, pesticides may be the next course of action. Natural pyrethrums are more environmentally benign than synthetic pesticides. Pesticides should only be applied to the leaves of plants and not the flowers. They're toxic to pollinators, such as bees and butterflies.

Attracts

Attract these stunning moths into your garden by planting Lady's Bedstraw, Hedge Bedstraw and Wild Madder.

Lady's Bedstraw

Galium verum

Hedge bedstraw

Galium mollugo

A close up of some white Rubia flowers on a plant

Madder

Rubia spp.

Yellow Honeysuckle

Lonicera tragophylla

Repels

Solitary wasps, spiders, birds and garden mammals will feast on these insects.
Free download for your phone or tablet
Download on the App StoreGet it on Google Play

Plant Knowledge

Search our ever-growing knowledge base to find plants and information. Find out about pests and diseases you should be keeping an eye out for. Watch How to videos or follow step by step guides for tasks in the garden. Free download for your phone or tablet.
Download on the App StoreGet it on Google Play