Flying Bugs Over British Sky Analyzed by Research Team
After analyzing insects migrating over Southern Britain for nearly 10 years, researchers have released data in a research paper published in the journal Science. The number of insects migrating over southern Britain could be in trillions and scientists estimate a combined weight of 3,200 tons for these flying bugs. The research team used using entomological radar and aerial insect catching nets to collect the data, most comprehensive estimate of flying bugs till date.
As insects migrate north and south seasonally, they can reach speed between 18 and 37 miles per hour, the research team added. The research team comprised of entomologists from China, Britain and Israel.
As England is relatively cold and damp, the number of insects in other regions could be even higher than three trillion, the research team added.
Many studies conducted in the past have concentrated on monarch butterfly. The current study is the first to put emphasis on other flying bugs. Talking about marmalade hoverfly, a small, insignificant-looking creature, Chapman said, "It's only about a centimeter long, it's orange with black stripes, but it's a hugely abundant migrant, and it actually does some very important jobs." The hoverfly spends winter in the Mediterranean and returns to England in the spring.
University of Exeter entomologist and study co-author Jason Chapman said, “High-altitude aerial migration of insects is enormous. These aerial flows are an unappreciated aspect of terrestrial ecosystems, equivalent to the oceanic movements of plankton which power the oceanic food chains.”
"It's just an awfully good study, using the techniques which they have developed," says Hugh Dingle, an expert on animal migration with the University of California, Davis.
A news published by Daily Mail informed, “Insects play important roles, pollinating plants, facilitating productive soil through decomposing, serving as food sources for birds and bats, spreading disease, and serving both as crop pests and predators of crop pests.”
The most abundant medium-sized day-flying insects included hoverflies and ladybirds, also called ladybugs, and the most common big ones included large butterflies such as the painted lady.
"Certain insects like locusts and the monarch butterfly, have gotten a great deal of attention," Dingle adds. "But perhaps because of all that attention on these big charismatic insects, the huge migrations that occur in lots and lots of other insects, all the way down to tiny aphids, are certainly not as well known by the public, and may not even be as well known by scientists."
“If, due to human influence, a large fraction of the [insect] migrant population is wiped out, it might have catastrophic consequences for those particular ecosystems,” Eric Warrant, a zoologist at Lund University in Sweden.