In Autumn hedgerow
Hummingbird Hawkmoth hovers
Humming Bird Hawk Moth (Macroglossum stellatarum)
- Wingspan 40 – 50 mm
- Not a native to the UK.
- Description: large proboscis and antenna, fan tailed thorax, orange hindwings and grey-brown fore-wings, marked with two black lateral stripes.
- Takes its name from the habit of flitting between blooms collecting nectar with its long proboscis, with a flight pattern resembling that of the humming bird.
- Although it has occasionally been known to overwinter in southern counties, this day flying moth is largely a migrant from the continent, flying any time from spring to October.
- A prolonged spell of warm summer weather and a southerly prevailing wind, can result in a fairly large presence of the humming hawk moths in the UK.
I have spotted these exotic visitors to England only twice; once in my garden, and once at the nursing home where my mum lived for the last 18 months of her life.
I read somewhere that the hummingbird hawkmoth is considered a good luck omen in malta and Italy. Apparently a swarm of them was seen crossing the English Channel flying towards England on the day of the D Day landings in 1944. My sighting was not such a good omen as I wrote in a previous post amended below!
“Just last year we sat in the garden on a sunny autumn Thursday, my mother and I. We saw a hummingbird hawkmoth, a rare visitor to the UK. Like a large bee crossed with a moth, it hovered over the flowers like a hummingbird. We were at the The Owlpen, mum’s care home, enjoying the last warm days of the year. Sitting with us were Diana, Phyllis, Agnes and a lovely Welsh lady who didn’t speak at all. Agnes spotted a plane with four wings flying round and round in circles. A training flight we thought or maybe a pleasure flight. No-one else noticed it. Diana was earnestly knitting hats for merchant seamen. She has made hundreds over the years from wool that people bring her. She says it keeps her mind alert and her hands busy. She doesn’t need a pattern now, she knows the stitches so well, but she has to concentrate on counting the rows. Phyllis is a large lady with sparkly eyes, very little hair, and sorely swollen legs. She has difficulty walking and forgets where she has put her stick. She loves to chat about her grandchildren and to hear about other people’s. Agnes is mum’s best friend at the Owlpen. She is a lovely cultured lady who reads the Times from cover to cover every day to ‘keep abreast of the news’. Agnes enjoys good conversation but gets cross with herself when she can’t remember the words she wants to say.
Mum’s eyes do not sparkle today. They look milky and dull like an aged pet. She is not joining in the conversation and does not appear to be enjoying the lovely day. It worries me that she seems so quiet and a bit confused. I fear she is fading in mind and body so I ask the nurse to make an appointment for the doctor to visit.
On Monday I arrive early to be there when the doctor comes. He is young, gentle and kind and asks mum lots of questions. She is overawed by him and doesn’t want to be a nuisance so she says she is fine. I gently coax the symptoms out of her. Didn’t you have a pain in your tummy mum? “Yes, a little bit”. Doesn’t it hurt your back when you are moved mum? “Yes, a little bit”. Haven’t you gone off your food because it makes you sick mum? “Yes, a little bit”. Bless her, it breaks my heart to see how dependent and deferential she has become. Where is the proud, strong, creative lady? What happened to the northern matriarch who watched over the whole extended family for the last sixty years?
The doctor says he won’t distress her further as she seems a bit down. So I stay for the whole day. We read the book of Old Gateshead and go down ‘memory lane’. We have coffee and share a bit of cake. At lunchtime I sit with her and she manages to eat a whole bowl of soup. She is so animated now that we decide to have a girlie afternoon. Fortunately I had brought my manicure set and some nail varnish. I cut her nails and massage her hands with Wild Rose Beauty Balm from Neal’s Yard. Then I buff the nails to smooth them and paint them Midnight Bronze. By the time I leave she looks relaxed and radiant, and the room is filled with the smell of roses. I have never felt closer to her and I will treasure the memory of that day forever. My mum died before the week was out.
I would give the world to be able to see my mum today, take her for a drive, or make her a special lunch.”