Migrant watch

The Painted Lady butterfly and Humming-bird Hawk-moth are arriving from Africa and becoming increasingly common in the UK. To find out just how common, we need your help.

Butterfly Conservation is running a project to map the arrival, spread and departure of migrant insects online. 2016 was a reasonable year for the Painted Lady but disappointing for the Humming-bird Hawk-moth. View the results of 2016's online survey.

If you have seen either the Humming-bird Hawk-moth or the Painted Lady in Britain and Ireland since the start of 2017, please follow the link for the appropriate species and help us track the impact of climate change on migration.

Painted Lady
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Painted Lady

The Painted Lady is a long-distance migrant, which causes the most spectacular butterfly migrations observed in Britain and Ireland. Each year, it spreads northwards from the desert fringes of North Africa, the Middle East, and central Asia, recolonising mainland Europe and reaching Britain and Ireland. In some years it is an abundant butterfly, frequenting gardens and other flowery places in late summer.

This butterfly arrives in the UK every year and breeds here during the warmer months, with the offspring then emigrating southwards. They can arrive here even in mid-Winter, as happened during the winter of 2015/16, but typically the first big influx each year takes place in late May/early June. Numbers vary greatly from year to year, but the last mass immigration occurred during 2009. What will this year bring?

Humming-bird Hawk-moth
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Humming-bird Hawk-moth

This moth resembles a hummingbird as it flies rapidly between plants and hovers to feed over tubular flowers such as Viper's-bugloss during the day. Similar to Bee hawk-moths in flight but the Humming-bird Hawk-moth has orange-brown hindwings that are evident in flight. It has forewings that are greyish-brown, a black and white chequered body, and an incredibly long proboscis.

As with the Painted Lady butterfly, numbers of Humming-bird Hawk-moths arriving here vary from year to year. Although some may successfully hibernate in the warmest, southern areas of Britain and Ireland, most migrate from warmer parts of Europe each year. High numbers were reported in the UK in 2011 and 2015, but how will the moth fare in 2017?