Sunday, 10 June 2007

Red Admiral and a Hummer

As well as the Painted Ladies the Red Valerian also was host to several Red Admirals (Vanessa atalanta) and a Hummingbird Hawk-moth. The Red Admiral is closely related to the Painted lady. It is a very widespread species but it has trouble surviving the winter in the UK (although some do) and so the population is boosted by migrants from mainland Europe. It is indeed a strong migrant, it has been recorded flying at night and also in sub zero temperatures. I occasionally find one in my moth trap when I check them in the morning.

In the picture below you can see how cryptically the underside of the hind-wing is patterned. When at rest the fore-wing is covered by this and the butterfly becomes well camouflaged, despite its bright colours.

I saw the first Hummingbird Hawk-moth (Macroglossum stellatarum) of the year yesterday. It is a species of hawk moth with a long proboscis, and is capable of hovering, making an audible humming noise while it does so.
These two features make it look remarkably like a hummingbird when it feeds on flowers. Most years someone phones me to tell me they've got a Hummingbird in their garden, and they usually take a lot of convincing that it is in fact a moth. It flies during the day, especially in bright sunshine, but also at dusk, dawn, and even in the rain. These two pictures were taken with flash, almost freezing the wing movement. The caterpillars feed on Lady's Bedstraw (Galium verum) and after the first influx later records are probably of moths bred locally.

The garden was full of baby birds today, including Blue Tits, Great Tits, Log-tailed Tits, Wrens, Robins, Blackbirds, Dunnocks, House Sparrows and Starlings, and I've probably forgotten some, so hopefully many of our garden birds have done well so far despite the recent change to wet and colder weather.


tut-tut said...

I believe I've seen a variation of this moth here, too. Great photos, Tony.

Tony Morris said...

hi Tut-tut, it is quite possible, there are lots of Hawk-moth or Sphynx species in the USA. There's a great USA Butterfly and Moths site where you can put in where you live and it gives a list of what occurs: