Wildlife experts humming over hawkmoth

LORNA MARSH A hummingbird hawkmoth, which is normally only seen in the UK during the summer and early autumn, has this year plumped for a Norwich factory for its winter residence.

LORNA MARSH

It likes to get away in winter to warmer, continental climes, but one particular sun-seeker has made a rare winter appearance in Norfolk.

A hummingbird hawkmoth, which is normally only seen in the UK during the summer and early autumn, has this year plumped for a Norwich factory for its winter residence.

Its appearance is made even more unusual as moth numbers in Britain are generally in decline.

And the question of whether the moths are able to hibernate and survive the winter in Norfolk may have important repercussions.

The moth was spotted inside Crowes Complete Print's Norwich factory. It is almost unheard of for an adult hummingbird hawkmoth to stay over winter in Norfolk. Nearly all records are in the summer and early autumn when migrants are blown over from the continent.

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Norfolk Wildlife Trust experts said it could be a sign of the changing climate that could lead to all-year-round residency in the county for the moths as global warming increases.

The moth is resident in southern Europe but each year varying numbers migrate northwards, with some being blown across the English Channel and arriving in Britain. It is most commonly seen along the south and south-west coast.

Trust officials are now appealing to members of the public to keep a look-out for the moths for their records.

A spokesman for NWT said: "At one of Norfolk Wildlife Trust's coastal reserves the hummingbird hawkmoth is a regular visitor, appearing in early June.

"Caterpillars of this species have been seen, so we know they breed in Norfolk, but the question has always been are they able to hibernate and survive the cold Norfolk winter?

"If the predicted warmer winters due to global warming occur, it could mean that the hummingbird hawkmoth will become resident."

Crowes has been a NWT Investor in Wildlife, the corporate membership arm of the trust, for many years.

Mike Dawson, a member of staff at Crowes who spotted the moth, said: "The moth was in our factory, so we think it had been hibernating in the roof space. We have seen them here before, but never at this time of the year. It's amazing."

Anyone who has seen a hummingbird hawkmoth this year should contact the trust by e-mail at makeitcount@norfolkwildlifetrust.org.uk or by phone on 01603 625540.

The moth is one of 36 species to feature in NWT's Norfolk Wild

File, which can be ordered on 01603 625540.