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Macroglossum stellatarum, known as the Hummingbird Hawk-moth, is a large sphingid moth found in warm climates in Europe, North Africa, and Asia. It is a strong flier, dispersing widely in the summer but it rarely survives the winter in northern latitudes. The hummingbird hawk-moth is named for its long proboscis (straw like mouth) and its hovering behavior, which, accompanied by an audible humming noise, give it remarkable resemblance to a hummingbird as it visits flowers to feed on nectar. (This ability to hover has evolved independently in only a few nectarivorous animal groups for example hawkmoths (family Sphingidae), honeybees, hummingbirds, and glossophagine bats). The hummingbird hawk-moth is diurnal (flies during the day) especially in bright sunshine, but also at dusk, dawn, and even in the rain. Its visual abilities have been much studied, and it has been shown to have a relatively good ability to learn colors (Kelber, 1996). In feeding, adult hummingbird hawk moths are reported to trap-line, i.e. return to the same flower beds at about the same time each day, and pollinate many popular garden flowers, especially those with lots of nectar, such as honeysuckle and buddleia. Even on stems with multiple flowers close together hummingbird hawk-moths keep track of each flower they visit, so that they don’t waste time and energy by repeat sampling of the same (empty) flower. Their requirement for the carbohydrates they use to power their rapid and constant wing movement is so strong that they will continue to feed even as they are mating. Macroglossum stellatarum produce two or more generations per year and overwinter as adult moths in crevices among rocks, trees, or buildings. The larva is green with two grey stripes bordered in cream along the sides and a “horn” on the posterior segment, as is typical of sphingids. Larvae feed on bedstraws (genus Galium) or madders (genus Rubia) and occasionally other genera within the Rubiaceae.

In North America, members of the genus Hemaris (also in family Sphingidae) have also been given the common name hummingbird moths. Although they have a similar appearance and behavior to Macroglossum stellatarum , they are a distinct group and this causes some confusion. The genus Hemaris is known as the bee moths in Europe.

(Wikipedia 2011; BBC 2011; Kelber 1996)


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