They ride the wind! – As spring arrives (slowly in some places), we are starting to see the return of our favorite birds and butterflies. Researchers are studying how these tiny creatures are able to make long-distance migrations for thousands of miles in the fall, then make it all the way back in the spring. It turns out they choose a wind stream that is going their way.

These insect migrants have a compass sense that enables them to select winds which will take them in their chosen direction, and to travel at speeds of up to 100 mph. The fast speeds of winds aloft mean that insects travel more-or-less downwind, but they make subtle adjustments along the way so that they partially correct for wind-induced drift away from the direction they want to go.

Researcher Jason Chapman says, “Migratory butterflies and moths have evolved an amazing capacity to use favorable tailwinds. By flying at the heights where the wind currents are fastest, migratory moths can travel between their summer and winter grounds in just a few nights.”

Researcher Jane K. Hill says, “We estimate that over 2 billion insects were involved in the mass migration events that we studied. These insect migrants are clearly very successful.”

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