Trillions of Insects Migrate Every Year Flying Over us

By Ana Verayo, | December 28, 2016

A painted Lady butterfly (Vanessa cardui). (Pixabay)

A painted Lady butterfly (Vanessa cardui). (Pixabay)

Scientists in the UK estimate that trillions of insects fly over southern England every year, after studying them for almost a decade. This is the first study to identify the number of insects that migrate in a region.

According to the author of the study, ecologist Jason Chapman from the University of Exeter, insect migration is crucial since many species are harmful pests or beneficial as pollinators and it is important to know how many are moving as well as their origins and destinations.

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To obtain these migration numbers, researchers from the University of Exeter and Rothamsted Research utilized a radar beam and nets hanging from a blimp, from 500 to 4,000 feet high to count the number of bugs.

The results of this study revealed that 3.5 trillion insects fly from north to south and vice versa in southern England from May to September every year.


Apparently, 3,200 tons of insects partake in this yearly movement. This is several times more than 30 million songbirds that migrate from the UK to Africa during fall. This massive amount of insects is equal to the weight of 800 adult elephants or 20,000 flying reindeer.

Scientists also suggest that in warmer climates, there are even more bugs flying around.

Chapman explained that since this is a very high number when it comes to insect movement in the UK, high-altitude insect migration all over the world can be considered as one of the most pivotal animal movements every year among terrestrial ecosystems.

Insects are more likely to migrate in massive numbers during the daytime, and denser numbers were observed during warmer weather and lighter winds. Scientists also reveal that insects can detect tailwinds that will help them to migrate to their destinations.

​Chapman added that seasonal insect migration was once considered as rare. However, the discovery of many insect species using winds to migrate across vast distances in the country was a big surprise.

This new study was published in the journal Science.

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