2012 was not a great year for either the immigrant Humming-bird Hawk-moth or Painted Lady butterfly in the UK. Just under 1,800 reports were received in total, a huge decrease on the 10,000 plus sightings in 2011. Many thanks to everyone who reported these incredible insects in 2012!
After an amazing year in 2011, the Humming-bird Hawk-moth was seen in much lower numbers in the UK last year. Only 1,444 reports were received from 1,358 people. This represents an 85% decrease in sightings compared with 2011. However, in 2009 only 1,986 reports were received through the online survey, so the 2012 total is not dramatically different to some previous years.
The poorer year for the 'Hummer' is reflected on the distribution map of 2012 sightings (right). Although there were reports from the Isles of Scilly to the northern coast of mainland Scotland, sightings in the northern half of Britain were sparce. Again, the late summer/early autumn (August & September) counts of Hummers were pretty poor, with peak sightings occurring in June/July. The weather probably played a major part in this, with sightings concentrated during the few prolonged periods of sunny warm weather from mid-June to late-July.
Interestingly, there was also a peak in reports during March 2012. Again this ties in with the weather, as March was very warm and dry compared to the long-term average (in stark contrast to the rest of 2012 weather!) and might suggest that good numbers of Hummers hibernated successfully in the UK to emerge in the fine early spring conditions.
If Hummers had a below average year in the UK in 2012, Painted Ladies had a very poor one judging by the online survey results. Only 353 reports were received from 289 people. This very low total, only just over half of the number of reports in both 2011 and 2010 and a tiny fraction of the over 12,800 sightings submitted in the boom year of 2009.
The map (left) shows that Painted Lady sightings were scattered sparsely across the UK in 2012, with more regular reports only from south-coast counties. Sightings were low right through the year, only picking up a little from the middle of August until late September.
Thanks again to everyone who took part in the 2012 survey. The survey continues throughout 2013 - after three poor years on the trot will it be a boom year for the Painted Lady? Please continue to log all your sightings of both these incredible, inter-continental insects.