Every year millions of insects make a long journey to countries elsewhere in the world. In autumn, moths travel thousands of miles between Europe and Africa at night. For a long time, researchers thought that the insects got there by flying with the wind, but that turns out not to be the case.
Using tiny transmitters, German researchers were able to track the flight paths of the moths. The use of these transmitters is exceptional, previously it was not possible to study the flight movements of insects because of their small size.
The fourteen so-called skull hawk moths used for this study are relatively large compared to other moths. The trackers were glued to the backs of these moths. The bits were not bothered by this and could fly with it just fine.
For this research, the animals were released in Germany in the hope that they would fly to the Alps on their migration route. The researchers flew with the moths by plane and noted their route. The longest recorded route was about 90 kilometers.
Previously, scientists thought that the moths just roamed around, but the opposite has turned out. The moths fly in a straight line and are not stopped by a changing wind direction. When they fly with the wind, they fly higher and allow themselves to be carried along, as it were. But in headwinds, the moths fly close to the ground to use as little force as possible.
Thus, the moths have exceptional navigational abilities and can fly in a straight line to Africa.