The hummingbird hawk-moth

Monday, October 12, 2020


The garden has been a refuge from the ugliness of the outside world this year, more than ever. Two years ago I managed to coax a small handful of verbena bonariensis plants into flowering on our heavily shaded bed which was dominated by two big black clouds, namely overgrown conifers. Frighteningly large to be honest. The verbena seeded dutifully and last year I was blessed with a packed bed of flowers. This year there were even more, which stared to fade at the start of August and looked like they had given up for the year. Something must have perked them up as they all filled with fresh brightness and took off again. Amongst the plentiful visitors to the verbena have been bees, butterflies and tiny birds. My most favourite flying wonder has been the hummingbird hawk-moth which I saw zipping about one afternoon. I could hardly believe my eyes! Somehow, I recognised it, probably more from it's size and behaviour more than appearance. Dropping everything I dashed inside for my camera, battery, memory card and the big zoom lens. 
Back out into the garden I spilled, breathless from the rush, re-spotted the moth and took aim. Naturally, the light was unfavourable and numerous blooms swayed in and out of the frame. If you've ever seen a hummingbird hawk-moth before you will know just how manic their flight pattern can be. They hover to feed, only pausing for a fleeting fraction of a second before whizzing along to the next bloom. Not necessarily in a logical order. 

The garden played host to three at a time, it really was a spectacle. I witnessed them on many days in September, so the pictures are from several different occasions but all on the verbena as this was their food of choice. In all I took 400-500 shots, most were a blur. So these few are the golden nuggets in a desert of sloppy sand. They were fascinating and hypnotic to watch, a real summer highlight for me. 
You can see what an incredibly long proboscis they have, above it's covered in pollen!
A wonderful curled up straw while in flight, on the move.

Body wise, they really are curious, Chequered effect to the body, almost a smooth furry body and their tail reminds me of a prawn. Huge wings, which flap so fast it's impossible to see more than a haze with your eyes. In print you can see the brown to the lower half of the wing. 

Those eyes!!! They looks like they are so focused on their work. 

Look at this guy, he's accidentally took a flower with him! Must have been loose. 

I hope you enjoyed getting up close with these wonderful creatures. Hopefully they will be returning to our garden next summer too. 

Take care,

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