One of the first things I did when we moved here was plant a ‘pollinator bed’, designed to offer as long a season of pollen and nectar as possible to insects. It also provides a small source of water, bare earth and place to nest and overwinter, (although the ‘hive’ pictured below is just emblematic and is in fact a wormery).
Imagine my surprise when I spotted what appeared to be a tiny hummingbird darting between the Verbena! Of course, it wasn’t a hummingbird (and apologies for the misleading title of this post - it is April 1st after all!) but a hummingbird hawk moth, a delightful immigrant, suspected to be sometimes resident (shhh, don’t tell the authorities), from Europe and Northern Africa.
I naturally began congratulating myself that this sighting was the highest endorsement my ‘pollinator bed’ could receive from Mother Nature, only to learn it was more likely down to my lazy mowing regime.
The caterpillar food plant of these charismatic moths is bedstraw and I discovered hedge-bedstraw (Galium album) happily growing in the old orchard, the grass of which I had officially ‘let go’ (it is now essentially a rough meadow).
These moths have two or more broods a year and so it is possible they had bred here in my garden. Adults overwinter in crevices in trees and buildings but winter temperatures are too low for them to survive in the UK, although some may successfully overwinter in outhouses.
Needless to say I will be planting more bedstraw in plug form - including lady’s bedstraw (Galium verum, a favourite roadside wildflower of mine) - to encourage these long-tongued, darting delights back to my garden, whether from near or far.