2013, the sixth year of the Migrant Watch online survey, was not a vintage year for these two long-distance migrants. A total of 1,868 reports were recieved, which is slightly up on 2012 but still only the fourth highest annual total since the project began. As ever, though, we are very grateful to all of the participants during 2013.
For the fourth year in a row, reports of Humming-bird Hawk-moths outnumbered those of the Painted Lady butterfly, but the gap was much smaller. In 2012, four times as many Hummer records were received as Painted Lady ones and in 2011 the difference was an amazing 15 times more. In 2013, however, the total of 1006 Humming-bird Hawk-moth records was only just higher than the 862 Painted Lady records submitted.
Judging by the results of Migrant Watch, 2013 was not a great year for the Humming-bird Hawk-moth. The 1006 reports, from 911 people, was 30% down on 2012 and only a tenth of the number in 2011. It was the second lowest total since the survey started in 2008. Nevertheless, Hummers were still reported widely, from the south coast of England to the Moray Firth in Scotland (see map right, which shows 10km x 10km map squares in which the moth was seen in 2013).
Interestingly, the typical, late-summer phenology of UK Humming-bird Hawk-moth sightings was restored in 2013. 69% of sightings took place in August and September 2013, compared with only 24% in the same two months in 2012.
Painted Lady reports increased in 2013 to reach the highest total since the massive immigration event in 2009. The 862 sightings submitted by 583 people represented two and a half times as many reports as in 2012.
Great "Painted Lady Years" are normally characterised by large-scale arrivals of the butterfly at the end of May and beginning of June, so the paucity of reports during this period in 2013 did not bode well for the year ahead. Sightings remained stubbonly low during the July heatwave too and only started to pick up at the beginning of August. 67% of all the 2013 Painted Lady sightings took place during August, with peak numbers reported near the beginning and end of the month.
The map (left) of Painted Lady reports in 2013 shows a much more widespread distribution of the butterfly than in 2012, with numerous sightings in northern England. Nevertheless, the species remained scarce in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Thanks again to everyone who took part in the 2013 survey. The survey continues throughout 2014 - after four lacklustre years will it be a boom year for the Painted Lady? Please continue to log all your sightings of both these incredible, inter-continental insects.