Trillions of winged migrants take to British skies

Trillions of winged migrants take to British skies

The trillions of migrating insects weigh a combined total of 3,200 tons – the equivalent of more than 636 elephants flying overhead each year. These flying bugs offer humankind a multitude of services, scientists say.

The painted lady butterfly (Vanessa cardui), pictured, is a major component of the large day-flying insect migration studied by radar in a new study measuring migration annually over a region in south-central England, monitored with specialized radar and a balloon-supported aerial netting system.
Jane Hill/Reuters

Three and a half trillion.

That’s how many insects migrate over southern Britain in one year, according to a study published Friday in the journal Science. To put that number in perspective, that’s the equivalent of more than 54 bugs for every person in Britain.

The team of scientists from Britain, China, and Israel spent a decade tracking insect migration at altitudes between 492 and 3,937 feet using entomological radar and an aerial insect-catching net.