Many don't realize it, but Monarch Butterflies are considered insects. Many don't realize it, but Monarch Butterflies are considered insects. Many don't realize it, but Monarch Butterflies are considered insects. (Photo: Luis Acosta / AFP/Getty Images)

5 new facts you didn't know about migrating insects

A new study lifts the veil from this mysterious phenomenon.

When it's time to look skyward, birds undoubtedly get all the attention. Scientists love birds during migration season because they are easy to track, making data gathering relatively simple. Everyone else loves them because, well, birds in migration sure do make for a pretty picture.

In comparison, insects are tiny little things, hard to spot under any condition, let alone to study at length. If it weren't for Monarch butterflies, we actually might not have even known that they migrate at all.

But thanks to a team of scientists from the United Kingdom, Israel and China who studied insect migration over Southern England for a span of 10 years and recently published the results, more is becoming known about these little creatures. So watch out, birds, your days in the spotlight might be numbered.

1. They move in LARGE numbers

Very large. According to the scientists, nearly 3.5 trillion bugs migrate over Southern England every year (the equivalent of about 20,000 flying reindeer!). When extrapolated to the airspace above all continental landmasses, there are more insects migrating overhead than birds.


2. There's a first time for everything

Dr. Nir Sapir of Israel's University of Haifa noted in the study that there had never before been a comprehensive, quantitative study of insect migration. “We hypothesized that there are many populations of migratory insects, but it was not known which migrate and which do not, when it happens or how far they go,” he said.

Locusts migrate north through Israel in the spring.Locusts migrate north through Israel in the spring. (Photo: Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images)


3. Their daily routine mirrors that of your parents

According to the scientists, 70% of insects prefer to migrate during daylight hours while only 30% like to be on the move at night. Sound familiar?


4. They like when the wind is beneath their wings

The scientists found that many insects choose to “hitch a ride” on gusts of wind to help them reach their destination. Smart bugs! Lazy bugs!


5. They run a tight ship

The migratory patterns of the insects are pretty well set in stone. In the fall they head south, in the spring they head north. The study found seasonal variations from year to year, but overall the net northward spring movements of larger insects were almost exactly cancelled out by net southward movements in autumn over the 10-year research period.

Monarch butterflies are one of the few insects whose migration habits have been studied.Monarch butterflies are one of the few insects whose migration habits have been studied. (Photo: ENRIQUE CASTRO/AFP/Getty Images)

MORE FROM THE GRAPEVINE:

Photos and SlideshowsPhotos and Slideshows

Related Topics: Animals, Environment, Lists, Science