Impressive moth is talk of the town

WARM winds are bringing an unusual visitor to the gardens of Suffolk this summer - making many people think they have a humming bird in their flower beds.

WARM winds are bringing an unusual visitor to the gardens of Suffolk this summer - making many people think they have a humming bird in their flower beds.

But while the creature flies from flower to flower, hovering just as a humming bird does with its long proboscis seeking out pollen, it is not even a bird.

For this is macroglossum stellatarum, or the hummingbird hawkmoth, a day-time moth which migrates from southern Europe and north Africa and has been blown here on warm south-east winds.

At the moment, one or two a day are being found at Landguard at Felixstowe by butterfly and moth expert Nigel Odin.

He said: “We are finding them around the buddleia and they are a wonderful sight.

“They are not rare because we do get a few most summers, but this is an excellent year for them because it has been so stinking hot and the winds have been in the right direction.

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“I have seen them in the Spa Gardens and in urban gardens. If you have not seen one before it can be quite an amazing sight.”

Polly Mullett saw one in her garden in Walton, Felixstowe.

She said: “It was huge and looked a lot like a humming bird, though it had a body like a bee or a wasp.

“It was quite fascinating and I had never seen anything like it before. It had a grey furry sort of body with spots.

“It seems so strange to see a moth act like that and to be about in day-time too.”

She also understood there had been another one on flowers in Hamilton Road, Felixstowe, which had attracted a lot of attention.

Some experts say global warming is also bringing more unusual insects to Britain, though many do find it difficult to survive over winter.

WEBLINK: www2.biologie.fu-berlin.de/engl/macroglossum.html

FACTFILE: Hummingbird hawkmoth

It has a wingspan of about two inches, a brown white-spotted abdomen, brown forewings and orange hindwings.

Its wings beat so fast they can make an audible hum and can only be seen as a haze.

Experts say it can visit more than 100 flowers in five minutes, extracting pollen.

It is abundant around Mediterranean countries and across central Asia to Japan.

Its favourite flowers are red valerian, honeysuckle, jasmine, buddleia, lilac, petunia and phlox.

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