Adaptive strategies of high-flying migratory hoverflies in response to wind currents: Flight behaviour of migrant hoverflies

Gao, Boya, Wotton, Karl R., Hawkes, Will L.S., Menz, Myles H.M., Reynolds, Don R., Zhai, Bao Ping, Hu, Gao, and Chapman, Jason W. (2020) Adaptive strategies of high-flying migratory hoverflies in response to wind currents: Flight behaviour of migrant hoverflies. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 287 (1928). 20200406.

PDF (Published Version) - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution.

Download (907kB) | Preview
View at Publisher Website:


Large migrating insects, flying at high altitude, often exhibit complex behaviour. They frequently elect to fly on winds with directions quite different from the prevailing direction, and they show a degree of common orientation, both of which facilitate transport in seasonally beneficial directions. Much less is known about the migration behaviour of smaller (10-70 mg) insects. To address this issue, we used radar to examine the high-altitude flight of hoverflies (Diptera: Syrphidae), a group of day-active, medium-sized insects commonly migrating over the UK. We found that autumn migrants, which must move south, did indeed show migration timings and orientation responses that would take them in this direction, despite the unfavourability of the prevailing winds. Evidently, these hoverfly migrants must have a compass (probably a time-compensated solar mechanism), and a means of sensing the wind direction (which may be determined with sufficient accuracy at ground level, before take-off). By contrast, hoverflies arriving in the UK in spring showed weaker orientation tendencies, and did not correct for wind drift away from their seasonally adaptive direction (northwards). However, the spring migrants necessarily come from the south (on warm southerly winds), so we surmise that complex orientation behaviour may not be so crucial for the spring movements.

Item ID: 71335
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1471-2954
Keywords: Episyrphus balteatus, Eupeodes corollae, flight behaviour, insect migration, orientation, sun compass
Copyright Information: © 2020 The Authors. Published by the Royal Society under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, provided the original author and source are credited.
Date Deposited: 29 Jun 2022 23:24
FoR Codes: 31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3103 Ecology > 310301 Behavioural ecology @ 100%
SEO Codes: 18 ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT > 1806 Terrestrial systems and management > 180606 Terrestrial biodiversity @ 100%
Downloads: Total: 35
Last 12 Months: 9
More Statistics

Actions (Repository Staff Only)

Item Control Page Item Control Page