In DepthENTOMOLOGY

Like birds, insects may travel in sync with the seasons

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Science  23 Dec 2016:
Vol. 354, Issue 6319, pp. 1515
DOI: 10.1126/science.354.6319.1515

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Summary

An analysis of a decade's worth of data from radars specifically designed to track airborne insects has revealed that trillions cross parts of the southern United Kingdom each year, traveling hundreds of kilometers a day. Although some specific insect migrations have been extensively studied, the new work, by taking a more systematic and quantifiable approach, reveals just how common they are. These mobile invertebrates, whose bodies are packed full of nitrogen and phosphorus, could move significant amounts of key nutrients across the globe and thereby have a big impact on ecosystem function. The work used upward-facing radar systems and recorded insects flying between 150 meters and 1200 meters high, documenting thousands of mass migrations northward in spring and southward in fall, suggesting the insects know when and in what direction to migrate and pick favorable winds to do so.