Why 2017 could be a record-breaking year for ‘hummers’

Biologists predict that this summer could be one of the best for hummingbird hawk-moths sightings in UK gardens. 

The data suggests that 2017 could be a record summer for hummingbird hawk-moths

The data suggests that 2017 could be a record summer for hummingbird hawk-moths © Anthony Collins / Getty


Reports of hummingbird hawk-moths in gardens were at a record high in June 2017, according to data from the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) Garden BirdWatch survey.

On average in June, the large and distinctive moths are seen in 0.5 per cent of gardens surveyed, whereas they have been seen in 2.3 per cent of gardens in June 2017.

“The beautiful orange flashes of the hummingbird hawk-moth can be great to see in the garden,” says the BTO’s Claire Boothby. 

Thousands of citizen scientists have taken part in Garden BirdWatch since the survey began in 1995. Hummingbird hawk-moths were added from 2007 onwards. 


A hummingbird hawk-moth feeding on red valerian © David Martin / Getty

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Richard Fox from Butterfly Conservation is cautious about the Garden BirdWatch survey predictions. 

“2017 seems like a fairly good year for hummers so far,” says Fox. “The best year since the start of our Migrant Watch survey has been 2011 so far, and the figures for June this year are slightly less than figures for June 2011.”

Hummingbird hawk-moths migrate to the UK during summer from northern Africa and southern Europe, with higher reporting rates in the south and east of England.

They are so called as they hover like a hummingbird when feeding on nectar of flowering plants such as buddleia and red valerian. 


Read more wildlife news stories in BBC Wildlife Magazine

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