So it’s thanksgiving time (seriously, it’s the US holiday that falls between Halloween and Christmas). It’s estimated that around 46.9 million Americans will travel at least 50 miles over the holiday. And since infographics are the coolest:
But the big question is, of course, what does this have to do with entomology? Well, I am glad you asked: insects travel too. Everyone is pretty well aware of the monarch migration that happens every fall. The butterflies travel down to their Mexican overwintering sites like snowbirds fleeing to their Florida condos. But did you know that this is not the only or the most impressive traveling insect species?
Enter the dragonfly. In North America, the common green darner (Anax
junius) migrates thousands of miles down the coastlines. They travel from as far north as Canada down to their wintering grounds in Central America and even into Argentina. Imagine having to take that car ride to the relative’s house! There is even a citizen science project called the Migratory Dragonfly Partnership to track these insects. Another dragonfly, the swamp darner (Epiaeschna heros) also migrates starting in late July from the far north. The six-spotted
leafhopper (Macrosteles fascifrons) has the reverse migration, using warm wind currents to go from the south up to Canada in the early summer.
There are plenty of other butterfly species that migrate, just not as far as the monarchs. You can check out all the other north American species of insects that migrate here.
Perhaps the most impressive long-distance migration by an insect is the desert locust (Schistocerca gregaria) in Africa. They too use air currents like a hang glider uses updrafts to fly. One year, individuals were able to travel almost 2,800 miles from Africa to the Caribbean islands and the east coast of south America.
So whether you are staying home or traveling, remember that the insects are traveling too. And in case you are an introvert like me and need stuff to talk about to all those relative who think you are a bit of a weirdo, won’t they be impressed when you share this entomological awesomeness?