2015 was good year for moth and butterfly migration generally, and the sightings submitted to Migrant Watch online show that it was the case for the Humming-bird Hawk-moth and Painted Lady butterfly. In total we received 10,231 records of the two species through the website. This is the best total since 2011, and more than the totals for 2012, 2013 and 2014 added together! Many thanks to everyone who submitted sightings.
The Humming-bird Hawk-moth had its second best year since Migrant Watch started in 2008 - only 2011 was better. More than twice as many records were submitted in 2015 than in 2014. In all, last year, 6,979 sightings of the moth were submitted by 5,997 people. Most participants only submitted a single sighting, but some lucky observers spotted Humming-bird Hawk-moths in several locations or had numerous repeat visits to their garden.
The Humming-bird Hawk-moth was recorded widely across the UK in 2015 (see map left). In England, the moth was almost ubiquitous, with sightings from nearly all 10km x 10km map squares apart from in the far north-west. The moth was also widespread in lowland Wales and was more widely recorded in Scotland and Northern Ireland than for several years. Indeed, in terms of 10km grid square distribution, 2015 was very similar to the record-breaking year of 2011 (although there was about a third more individual records that year compared with 2015).
Unlike in 2014 when Humming-bird Hawk-moth sightings were clustered into two peaks, one in June and the other between mid-August and mid-September, numbers of sightings in 2015 remained fairly high from early June right through to late September in 2015. The first big arrival of Humming-bird Hawk-moths was reported on the first weekend in June, with 127 separate sightings submitted on 7th June alone (the second largest daily total of the whole year). Other particularly good days included 15th June (104 records), 16th June (100 records), 9th July (91 records), 19th July (93 records), 29th August (92 records), 6th September (132 records, the best day of the year), 10th September (118 records) and 11th September (112 records).
The Painted Lady had its best year since the mass invasion of 2009. A total of 3,252 Painted Lady records were submitted to the Migrant Watch survey by 1,965 people in 2015. This total is greater than all the records submitted from 2010-2014 combined, but only a quarter of the number in 2009.
In spite of all this, there was a sense that the Painted Lady never quite fulfilled expectations in 2015. Reports of huge numbers of Painted Ladies in southern Europe in the spring raised hopes of a great year for this species in the UK. These hopes were buoyed by a small arrival of Painted Ladies in mid-May and then a much more substantial influx in June. This started on 5th June, when 102 Painted Lady records were submitted, peaked on 7th June (195 records) and faded after 16th June (121 records).
However, after this promising start, the Painted Lady season stuttered and never really took off. No other day in 2015 achieved over 50 Painted Lady records.
Reflecting the better year for Painted Ladies, the map of records submitted to Migrant Watch (see above) shows very widespread sightings across England and scattered observations across other parts of the UK, including reports from Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles.
We very much hope that you will continue to submit sightings of these two amazing migratory insects during 2016.