Wind, warmth boost insect migration, study reveals | 4/8/2013 | Staff
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Wind and warmth can improve travel time for the billions of insects worldwide that migrate each year, according to a first-ever radio-tracking study by University of Guelph biologists.

Researchers equipped monarch butterflies and green darner dragonflies with radio transmitters and tracked them through southern Ontario and several northern States to learn how environmental factors affect daytime insect migration.

Insects - Migration - Period - Efforts - Species

Learning more about what happens to insects during their physically taxing migration period may help in efforts to conserve them, particularly threatened species, said the researchers.

The study, which was recently published in Biology Letters, found wind and temperature are more important influences than precipitation for bugs on autumn migration flights spanning thousands of kilometres between their breeding and wintering grounds.

Part - Migration - Monarchs - Canada - Overwinter

As part of their multigenerational migration, monarchs from Canada overwinter in Mexico and green darners travel to the southern United States.

Until recently, their small size has made individual insects hard to track. But it's increasingly critical to do just that, said lead author Samantha Knight.

Insects - Wing - Play - Roles - Crops

Insects on the wing play vital roles in pollinating crops and in maintaining ecosystems as both prey and predators.

Threatened by habitat loss, land use changes and global warming, she said, "some 40 per cent of insect species risk extinction, yet we know little about what happens to organisms when they migrate."

Study - Co-author - Prof - Ryan - Norris

Study co-author Prof. Ryan Norris, Department of Integrative Biology, added, "Migration is not an easy period for insects. They are likely pushed to their physiological limits. If we have a way to track and understand what habitats they're using, that goes a long way to understanding what might be causing declines."

As part of the study, researchers captured insects on Ontario's Bruce Peninsula in fall 2015 and 2016 and outfitted them with battery-powered radio transmitters weighing about as much as a raindrop. Those devices emitted signals picked up by an array of...
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