Lepidoptera The Humming-bird Hawk Moth – Macroglossa Stellatarum

The genus to which this insect belongs contains three interesting British species. Their antenna are thickened toward the end, but terminate in a small curved bristle. Their wings are rather short and broad; their bodies are very thick, terminating in a broad tuft of hair; and the perfect insects fly during the daytime, delighting in the hottest sunshine. The larva feed principally on low-growing plants, and undergo their metamorphoses on the ground among the foliage.

On Moth PhotoPlate IX (fig. 6) one of these pretty moths is shown. It is the Humming-bird Hawk, so called on account of its exceedingly rapid humming-bird-like flight, accompanied by a soft humming sound.

This insect is very common; and, being very partial to the attractions offered by many of our favourite garden flowers, it ought to be well known to all observers of nature.

Take your stand near a bed of petunias or verbenas, or close to a honeysuckle in bloom, on any hot summer’s day, and you are almost sure to be rewarded by a peep at the wonderful flight and interesting ways of this moth. It makes its appearance so suddenly that you first view it as an apparently motionless insect, suspended in the air, and thrusting its long proboscis into the tube of an attractive flower. Its wings vibrate so rapidly that they are quite invisible, and give rise to the soft hum already mentioned. Then it darts from one flower to another, making a similar brief stay before each while it sucks the grateful sweets. Raise your hand as if to strike, and suddenly it vanishes you know not where. But it is as bold as it is wary, and will often return to the selfsame flower as if to defy your power. A sharp sweep of your net in a horizontal direction, or a sudden downward stroke, may secure it; but if you miss it, as you probably will, it will disappear like a phantom, and give you no opportunity of making a second attempt.

This moth is on the wing throughout the hottest months of the year-May to September, and will often greet you as you roam over flowery banks in search of butterflies.

The caterpillar feeds on the lady’s bedstraw (Galium verum), hedge bedstraw (G. Mollugo), and the goose grass (G. Aparine), and may be searched for in August and September. It is rough, green or brownish, and dotted with white. Along each side are two light lines. The horn is thin and short, rough, and points upwards.