The Migrant Watch survey has now been running for 10 years, 2008-2017. Over that time 58,811 reports of Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui) and Humming-bird Hawk-moth (Macroglossum stellatarum) have been reported through the website. Surprisingly, Humming-bird Hawk-moth records (35,248 reports in total) considerably outnumber those of Painted Lady butterflies (23,563 reports). Indeed, in seven of the 10 years, there have been more reports of the moth than of the butterfly, and only in the amazing Painted Lady year of 2009 did butterfly sightings greatly outnumber those of Humming-bird Hawk-moth. More than half (54%) of all the Painted Lady reports ever submitted to Migrant Watch came in 2009!
Many thanks to everyone who has submitted sightings during the first 10 years of Migrant Watch.
In 2017, a total of 7,123 records were received of the two migratory species, submitted by 5,161 people. We are very grateful to you all! This is an increase in both records and recorders of over 80% on 2016.
It was a particularly good year for the Humming-bird Hawk-moth with 5,428 reports from 4,505 participants; the 3rd highest number of records since Migrant Watch began (after 2011 and 2015). Over three times as many Humming-bird Hawk-moth reports were contributed to the survey than those of the Painted Lady butterfly in 2017.
As can be seen from the map (below), Humming-bird Hawk-moths were reported very widely across the UK during the year, as far north as Orkney. They were spotted right through the year too; the first on 3 January flying around a warehouse in Kent paying particular interest to high-vis clothing and the last report on 6 December nectaring from Winter Jasmine on a Maidenhead (Berkshire) patio.
In some years Humming-bird Hawk-moth sightings are clustered into two peaks, one in early summer and the other in late summer/early autumn. However, 2017 did not show this pattern and Humming-bird Hawk-moths were consistently reported in good numbers from the last week in May to the start of September, with the highest daily totals at the beginning of July.
In contrast, 2017 was not a particularly good year for the Painted Lady. A total of 1,695 records were submitted through the Migrant Watch website, provided by 1,062 participants. The number of sightings was around 20% down on 2016 and almost 50% down on the last good Painted Lady year in 2015. Nevertheless, as can be seen from the map below, sightings were received from most parts of the UK, from the Isles of Scilly to Shetland, and with two reports, probably of the same individual butterfly, from St Kilda.
As is usual, the Painted Lady sightings fell into two main time periods. There was a big increase in sightings between 18 May and 4 June 2017, with a peak on 26 May, corresponding with the main influx of Painted Ladies arriving from southern Europe, and then a much more sustained period of activity (although with much lower daily totals of sightings) from the beginning of July to the middle of September, which includes the emergence of the 'home grown' progeny of the earlier immigrants.
All the sightings submitted to Migrant Watch each year are passed back to Butterfly Conservation Branches and County Moth Recorders to feed into local and national recording schemes, conservation and research. We very much hope that you will continue to submit sightings of these two amazing migratory insects during 2018.