An astonishing number of insects have been recorded migrating over a region of Britain, a quantity that surprised scientists.
Scientists have started tracking a staggering number of insects that migrate over south-central England on a yearly basis, and have finally come up with a number: 3.5 trillion bugs weighing 3,200 tons. Researchers base that figure on an analysis of specialized radar and a balloon-suspended aerial netting system.
The bugs migrate at altitudes of as high as 3,937 feet and as low as 492 feet, according to a statement from the University of Exeter. Scientists there tracked these bugs over a period of 10 years, and although that figure sounds like a lot, it’s probably a lot lower than some other parts of the world.
It’s an important finding because scientists need to better understand the movement patterns of insects and how they are affected over the years by the changing climate. Insects are necessary for pollinating plants and regulating the nutrient levels of soil when their bodies decompose.
Dr Jason Chapman, of the Centre for Ecology and Conservation at the University of Exeter’s Penryn Campus in Cornwall, said: “Insect bodies are rich in nutrients and the importance of these movements is underappreciated.
“If the densities observed over southern UK are extrapolated to the airspace above all continental landmasses, high-altitude insect migration represents the most important annual animal movement in ecosystems on land, comparable to the most significant oceanic migrations.”