Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Ladybird, Ladybird, fly away home - but take care, its congested up there!

Ladybirds - high speed travellers! 
We hear lots nowadays about the remarkable travelling feats of migrating birds, but now insects are also making the headlines. Research has discovered that ladybirds can travel at heights of up to 1,000 metres or more above the ground and at speeds of up to 60 km/h (37 mph). This means that in theory, ladybirds could travel from London to Birmingham in little more than two hours! (So, they won’t be needing  HS2 then!) 
Most of the ladybirds were found at heights between 150 and 500 metres above the ground, flying at an average speed of 30 km/h (18 mph). But some were found at even higher altitudes, travelling even faster. 

In separate experiments, the team at Rothamsted research centre in Hertfordshire, also recorded the flight times of ladybirds in a Perspex box. The average flight lasted 36.5 minutes, with some going on for as long as 2 hours. This would mean that if ladybirds managed to do the same outside the laboratory, they could travel up to 120 kilometres (75 miles) in a single flight!

In fact, migrating birds could learn a thing or two from insects! Researchers used radar to carry out the first comparative analyses of the flight behaviour and migratory strategies of insects and birds under nearly equivalent natural conditions. Contrary to expectations, moths such as the Silver Y, attained almost identical ground speeds and travel directions compared with small birds, despite their very different flight powers and sensory capacities. Moths achieved fast travel speeds in seasonally appropriate migration directions by exploiting favourably directed winds and selecting flight altitudes that coincided with the fastest air streams. By contrast, birds were less selective of wind conditions, relying on self-powered flight in their seasonally preferred direction, often with little or no tailwind assistance.

Mind you, the tiny money spider takes some beating! They use a little strand of gossamer to lift them up into the sky when they need to move on - weather balloons positioned thousands of metres above the Hawaiian islands which are the remotest island group in the world, have recorded money spiders drifting by!

Quite humbling isn't it. We have SO much more to learn about our amazing world.

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