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Get ready for palm-sized Convolvulus Hawk-moth, charity says

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Butterfly Conservation is asking moth lovers in the UK to get ready for the palm-sized Convolvulus Hawk-moth set to arrive over the course of next few days to drink nectar from ornamental tobacco plants planted in the back yards of Britons.

The migration generally begins in early autumn, the charity says, and it is a period when moth lovers across the UK can get a glimpse of one of the largest moths there is in the country. According to the charity, those who are looking to lure these huge moths, can use alcohol soaked cloths and tobacco plants over the next few nights.

At 12cm wingspan, the Convolvulus Hawk-moth is one of the largest in Europe. With pin-point precision, the moth can hover over the tubular tobacco flowers using its amazingly long 7.5cm proboscis.

Butterfly Conservation and Atropos have organised Moth Night and are asking members of the public to look for the Convolvulus Hawk-moth and other migrant species as sightings will help build a clearer picture of moth migration into the UK.

The charity says that moth-traps can be used to trap the migrant moths and to attract them, the best strategy is to hang out ropes soaked in alcohol, preferably wine, in a practice known as wine roping.

You can even employ another moth attracting technique known as sugaring, which involves painting a mixture of sugar, syrup and beer onto a post or tree trunk.

Around 40 species of immigrant moths have appeared in the UK for the first time in the last 15 years with a small number becoming established, such as the Black-spotted Chestnut.

The apparent increase in migrant records could reveal important information about the effects of climate change on UK moth populations.

The Convolvulus Hawk-moth migrates from southern Europe with a few hundred spotted in the UK annually, mainly during late summer and early autumn.

The signs are good for Moth Night 2015 as the moth has already been sighted widely across the UK in the recent weeks. Although most frequently encountered along the south and east coasts of England, there have been reports from inland areas too, as well as from Northern Ireland, and Shetland.

Other spectacular immigrants to look out for include Death’s-Head Hawk-moth and Crimson Speckled along with the Vestal which are all borne in from hotter parts of Europe and even Africa on warm winds.

Butterfly Conservation Head of Recording, Richard Fox said: “It has already been an amazing year for moth immigration and such activity usually peaks in early autumn. With migrants such as the massive Convolvulus Hawk-moth mixing with beautiful home-grown autumnal species, Moth Night is a great opportunity to discover the hidden wonders of our nocturnal wildlife at a public event or even in your own back garden.”

Mark Tunmore, editor of Atropos, said: “We will be remaining extra vigilant at Atropos’s headquarters in Cornwall over the Moth Night period. For many decades this area has been a famous location for visiting moth enthusiasts, hoping to see some of the rarer visitors to our shores at this time of year. One of the great things about moth recording is that immigrant species have the potential to turn up anywhere in the UK so you don’t have to live in the south or even at the coast to have a chance of observing something unusual and I encourage everyone to get involved, wherever they might live.”

Moth recorders at UK migration hotspots have also been colour marking some moths caught in the days leading up to Moth Night and the organisers will be asking people to keep an eye out for marked moths in the hope that it might reveal more information about insect migration.

Moth Night 2015 runs from 10-12 September and will include moth trapping events across the UK.