A case of mistaken identity

SITTING at a cafe alfresco sipping a cup of char enjoying the breeze from the Mediterranean Sea in Albir when I saw something scary in my peripheral vision it was a large bug with its landing gear down. I was just about to react when the bug stopped at the small glass of fresh flowers on the table and hovered. It looked exactly like a small hummingbird: an hour later looking out of the office window again I saw the hummingbird in the bed of flowers.

Every year many people are taken aback as they see in their garden what appears, at first sight, to be a hummingbird hovering around the flower petals. A closer look unmasks this imposter as a hummingbird hawkmoth, macroglossum stellatarum.

They fly like a hummingbird, drink nectar and pollinate. Hummingbird hawkmoths are strong flyers due to the build of their bodies. They have a superficial resemblance to a hummingbird, and they have the abilities of bees to pollinate but their main goal is to feed on the nectar of certain flowers. The hummingbird hawkmoth is a day-flying moth with a wingspan of about two inches (50-58mm). It has a brown, white-spotted abdomen, brown forewings and orange hindwings. The wings beat so rapidly that they produce an audible hum and can be seen only as a blur. They dart from one flower to the next with their long proboscis uncoiled which completes the illusion of a hummingbird.

The hummingbird hawkmoth is abundant and resident all around Mediterranean countries, and across central Asia to Japan. Its migratory habits are well documented, with many thousands regularly migrating northward in Europe in the spring. There is also evidence of a return migration in the autumn.

It’s all about the hum

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