Humming-bird Hawk-moth Sphingidae

Maps updated: April 2008

Macroglossum stellatarum (Linnaeus, 1758)

Description: Wingspan 50-58mm. The adults are dayflying and generally brown with small distinctive white patches on sides of the abdomen. There is also a black anal tuft. The forewings are a dull brown with darker crosslines. The hindwings are mainly orange.

Key Identification Features:

Sets:  male upperside

Flight Period: This migrant moth has been seen in N.Ireland as early as late April right through until the beginning of October. It is most commonly observed during June and July.

Status: A day-flying species that migrates from southern Europe each year to Britain and Ireland. In the past it was not always reported annually from N. Ireland. However, in recent times, probably due to the increased number of observers, a small number are usually seen, even in the poorest of years.

Ecology: This is most frequently reported from dry rocky grassland usually in coastal localities, especially in the east of the province and inland from urban and suburban gardens, where its characteristic feeding behaviour resembling that of a hummingbird attracts attention. It is particularly attracted to tubular nectar-rich flowers such as Buddleia Buddleja davidii, petunia, red valerian Centranthus ruber and many others in search of nectar. There is no reliable evidence to substantiate the claims that this species has successfully bred here, even in the exceptional years such as 1984 and 1992 when large numbers of individuals were observed. The larvae feed on various species of bedstraw Galium spp.

World Distribution: Across the Palaearctic except for northern regions.


 Thompson, R. S. & Nelson, B., 2003 (Oct 2). [In] The Butterflies and Moths of Northern Ireland