Bee That Looks Like A Hummingbird -What Is It?

Dear BuzzAboutBees

Today, I saw a bee that looks and hovers like a hummingbird.  Can you tell me what it is?


I have received these queries and similar both from the UK and the USA, so I thought it was time I wrote about this beautiful insect species.

hummingbird hawk-moth Macroglossum stellatarum sipping nectar from flowers.Hummingbird Hawk-moth, Macroglossum stellatarum

What Is This Bee That Looks Like A Hummingbird

In fact, this is not a type of bee, but if you live in the UK, it may be a fascinating type of Hawk-moth (or if you are in the USA, you may call it a Hummingbird moth).

hummingbird hawk-moth, Macroglossum stellatarum visiting white Jasmine flowers, side viewMacroglossum stellatarum visiting our climbing Jasmine.

I am personally familiar with the Hummingbird Hawk-moth, Macroglossum stellatarum which has visited our climbing Jasmine.  It's a migratory species, and is most visible in the UK from June. 

This species may be seen visiting gardens on sunny days, but also visits woodlands.  It is one of the few day active moths of the Sphingidae moth family1.

Whilst Macroglossum stellatarum may breed in the UK, it is thought that winters are generally too cool, with only a few individuals overwintering in Britain in milder winters2. 

Interestingly, while most hawkmoth species hibernate as pupae, Macroglossum stellatarum hibernate as adults, or  'imagines'1 ('imago' is the name given to the adult stage of an insect).

green caterpillar of the hummingbird hawk-moth, Macroglossum stellatarumCaterpillar of Macroglossum stellatarum

The green caterpillars can be found from June to October.


The use of the word 'hummingbird' as part of the common (or colloquial) name for these lovely moths, is very appropriate, and a great descriptor.

Indeed, taking decent photographs of this enchanting creature can be quite a challenge, owing to its darting, hovering flight, accompanied by rapid wing-beat (wing span: 50 - 58mm for this species3).

Hummingbird Hawk-moth Macroglossum Stellatarum on honeysuckle - LoniceraMacroglossum stellatarum visiting honeysuckle

Fortunately, decent images are relatively easy to acquire to supplement my own pretty poor ones!

If you haven't witnessed these gorgeous moths in action, do watch the video on this page!  Look out for them foraging on Buddleia, Jasmine, and Red valerian and honeysuckle.

Notice the long, out-stretched tongue (proboscis - which measures about 25 mm long in M. stellatarum1as it probes flowers for nectar which provides vital food. 

The proboscis may also be seen curled when in mid flight and when not feeding, or about to feed.

hummingbird hawk-moth Macroglossum stellatarum rear view foraging on white Jasmine flowerHovering flight with rapid wing beat as the moth feeds on nectar from Jasmine

Similar species

There are other Hawk-moth species that may be seen foraging on flowers that may also be compared with a hummingbird, but also a bee, for example the Broad-bordered Bee Hawk-moth, Hemaris fuciformis.


1.Stöckl AL, Kelber A. Fuelling on the wing: sensory ecology of hawkmoth foraging. J Comp Physiol A Neuroethol Sens Neural Behav Physiol. 2019 Jun;205(3):399-413. doi: 10.1007/s00359-019-01328-2. Epub 2019 Mar 18. PMID: 30880349; PMCID: PMC6579779.

2. The RSPB - 'Hummingbird hawkmoths in the UK'.

3. Brock, Paul D: Britain's Insects - A Field Guide To The Insects Of Great Britain And Ireland Princeton University Press WILDguides, 2021, ISBN: 9780691179278. 

  Pssst ... spread the word!

leafcutter bee on sweet pea plant sweet peas for bees