Researchers find first evidence that hoverflies migrate north in spring

Biology Letters (2022). DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2022.0318″ width=”800″ height=”530″/>

(a–c) Photos of migrating hoverflies taken on the Isles of Scilly prior to recording. (a) Syrphus vitripennis, (b) Episyrphus balteatus, (c) Scaeva pyrastri. (d) A 360° panoramic photograph of the Penryn site on the day of release in sunny conditions. (e) A 360° panoramic photograph of the Isles of Scilly survey site on the day of release under thick sea fog. (fi) Circular histograms of individual evanescent bearings (black dots) and group mean directions (black arrow) with the length of the arrow representing r from 0 to 1 at the outer edge of the circle. (f) All heads of gliding when the sun shines. (g) Gliding without wind in sunny weather. (h) Gliding while it was windy and sunny. Yellow dots indicate a south-southeast wind, blue dots indicate a west wind, red dot indicates an east wind. (i) Gliding during a thick sea fog when the sun was eclipsed, with winds from the southwest. Credit: Biology Letters (2022). DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2022.0318

A team from the University of Exeter has experimentally shown for the first time that migrating hoverflies orient north during the spring.

A large scale insect migration arrived in the Isles of Scilly and mainland Cornwall in late spring earlier this year. Among the species were many migrating butterflies and moths such as the Painted Lady and Hummingbird Hawkmoth, but the majority of the arrivals were gliding.

These hoverflies were of different species, but the main insect observed in the experiment was the glass-winged Syrphus (Syrphus vitripennis). Analysis of wind conditions revealed that the insects most likely flew over the channel from western France, a minimum distance of 200 km.

“I was sitting in a field in the beautiful Isles of Scilly, I could hardly believe it. Almost every hoverfly we released flew north on purpose, as if pulled by a magnet,” says Will Hawkes, Ph.D. student from the Center of Ecology and Conservation at the University of Exeter on the Penryn Campus in Cornwall.

To conduct the experiment, the researchers captured the hoverflies that fed on flowers before taking them to wide open fields in both the Isles of Scilly and mainland Cornwall.

The hoverflies were then released, crawling along the researcher’s finger and spending a few seconds to orient themselves before flying away, almost always to the north. The gliders were flown in cloudy and sunny conditions, with and without the presence of wind, and in all cases the mean direction was north. This provides the first experimental confirmation of a northerly compass sense in spring migrating gliders.

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“Studying insect migration is critical if we are to take full advantage of the ecological roles that insects play, from pest controllers and decomposers to pollinators. Understanding their routes and orientation mechanisms will help conservationists monitor the large-scale movements of these insects. protect,” notes. dr. Karl Wotton, Senior Lecturer at the University of Exeter, and a Research Fellow at the Royal Society University.

The newspaper is published in Biology Letters.

Scientists stunned by massive insect migration

More information:
Will L. Hawkes et al, Migratory hoverflies orientate north during spring migration, Biology Letters (2022). DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2022.0318

Provided by the University of Exeter

Quote: Researchers find first evidence that hoverflies migrate north in spring (2022, Oct. 14) retrieved Oct. 14, 2022 from

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