Unexpected influx of striped hawkmoths hits southern England

·1 min read
<span>Photograph: agefotostock/Alamy</span>
Photograph: agefotostock/Alamy

Hawkmoths are the plump-bodied superstars of the moth world, and the last two weeks have seen a notable invasion by one migratory species.

The striped hawkmoth is pale greeny-brown, with vivid pink underwings and pale stripes over its luxuriantly furred body and wings.

A handful are usually spotted each summer but this year up to a dozen are being found in a single (humane) moth light trap set by enthusiasts, particularly in south-west England. For many keen “moth-ers”, these individuals are their first sightings.

The favourable winds that swept in this welcome visitor have also brought painted ladies, the powerful migratory species that will fly – usually via several generations – from sub-Saharan Africa to northern Europe every summer.

Both species can breed successfully in Britain – moth fans will be scouring rosebay willowherb (and many other garden plants) for striped hawkmoth caterpillars in a few week’s time – but are unlikely to survive winter.

For many years, the painted lady was assumed to have hit a cul-de-sac in Britain because its offspring were never spotted leaving at summer’s end. Then radar revealed that the British-born ladies soar high into the air column to utilise winds to speed southwards to warmer climes where they can reproduce once again.

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