Query nook | Do bugs migrate? Which insect has the longest migration route?


Many dragonflies, beetles, butterflies, grasshoppers, and moths are known to migrate during the breeding season, and the distance traveled varies by species. Most insects travel in large groups, and scientists have studied these movements for several years.

A recent study (PNAS) found that the butterfly butterfly (Vanessa cardui) can make 12,000 to 14,000 kilometers of round trips. This is the longest known annual insect migration cycle to date.

Found in sub-Saharan Africa, the butterfly can travel to Europe and cross the Sahara when weather conditions are favorable. The caterpillars thrive in sub-Saharan Africa in wetter winter conditions and the adults migrate to North Africa in wet spring. Then they cross the Mediterranean Sea to get to Europe.

Simulations in the laboratory showed that favorable tailwinds between Africa and Western Europe help these insects on transcontinental journeys. They fly around one to three kilometers above sea level at a top speed of around 6 meters per second. The researchers examined a similar species of butterfly and calculated that the painted lady may have enough body fat to be able to fly non-stop for 40 hours.