Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Sitges butterflies

On a recent trip to Sitges, 20 miles south of Barcelona, without too much effort on our part we enjoyed some fine butterfly encounters.

How convenient it was that this southern Speckled Wood’s (Pararge aegeria aegeria) territory was by the hotel pool. This subspecies differs from the Northern P. aegeria tircis, the variation is in the ground colour, a rich orange unlike the yellow buff ground colour of my local Speckled Wood.

Familiar with the behaviour of the Speckled Wood, I was certain it would stick around & it provided great views from a variety of angles. It displayed the customary aggressive nature seeing off all incoming insects with verve.

A wonderful Sitges sighting was this Hummingbird Hawk-Moth (Macroglossum stellatarum) on Spanish flag, Lantana camara. A maximum of 4 on this shrub which grows in ornamental borders dotted along the sea front.

The moth is named after its resemblance to a hummingbird, with its rapid hovering motion, using its long proboscis as it feeds on the nectar of flowers, fond of plants with plentiful nectar. At one point we noted 5 moths on the shrub and an audible hum could be heard as their wings beat so fast.

Hummingbird hawk-moths are day-flyers preferring bright sunlight, but may also be seen at dawn and dusk and rarely at night. They are reported to trap-line, i.e. return to the same flower beds at approximately the same time each day.

The moths have a broad brown, white-spotted abdomen, brown forewings with black wavy lines across them and orange hindwings with a black edge & a fan-tail of setae at the end.They have a wingspan of 40-50 mm. Hawkmoths are capable of flying ay over 50km/h & are some of the fastest flying insects.

These Long-Tailed Blue (Lampides boeticus) were a familiar sight in Sitges. Apparently its an extremely rare migrant to the British Isles. Although it is continuously-brooded on the continent, it cannot survive UK winters.

The butterfly has a pair of "tails" together with an eye spot where the tails meet the wings. When at rest, the butterfly rotates the hindwings causing the tails to move, diverting predators from the other parts of the body. The butterfly has a jerky and rapid flight and is a strong flyer, they didn’t settle for long.

Whilst in Sitges we also enjoyed a birding trip to the Lleida Steppes, more about that in my next post.


  1. It must have been interesting to see so many Hummingbird Hawk Moth together, and I like the Long Tailed Blue

  2. Super pics of the Hummingbird Hawk-moth & all the flutters. FAB


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