The Speed of a Moth

Which is faster? A small moth or a songbird? The answer does surprise. A study published in March 2011 in Proceedings of the Royal Society B by researchers at Rothamsted Research, and the universities of Lund (Sweden), Greenwich and York, reports the surprising finding that night-flying moths are able to match their songbird counterparts for travel speed and direction during their annual migrations but they use quite different strategies to do so – information that adds to our understanding of the lifestyle of such insects, which are important for maintaining biodiversity and food security. This new international study of moth migration over the UK, and songbird migration over Sweden, funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and the Swedish Research Council, shows that songbirds (mainly Willow Warblers) and moths (Silver Y moths) have very similar migration speeds – between 30 kilometers and 65 kilometers per hour – and both travel approximately northwards in the spring and southwards in the autumn.

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