How do but­ter­flies man­age to fly in the wind?

Focus-Science and Technology - - Q & A - EDITED BY EMMA BAY­LEY BRIAN MCHALE, LON­DON

Sci­en­tists have stud­ied this by teth­er­ing in­di­vid­ual in­sects in wind tun­nels and train­ing them to fly to­wards flow­ers, while film­ing them in slow mo­tion. They have found that the light­weight in­sects use a range of fly­ing styles to com­bat the chal­lenges of stay­ing air­borne on windy days. They might clap their wings be­hind their backs to push them­selves for­ward or ‘wag­gle’ by twist­ing their flap­ping wings, there­fore cre­at­ing minia­ture whirl­winds that roll off the wing and lift it up. Good pos­ture is im­por­tant, as is warm­ing up the flight mus­cles be­fore flight.

But windy days can be use­ful. With help of tail­winds, mi­grat­ing but­ter­flies can travel at 100km/ h at an al­ti­tude of sev­eral hun­dred me­tres!

Some pop­u­la­tions of monarch but­ter­flies will mi­grate south nearly 5,000km to over­win­ter in Mex­ico and Cal­i­for­nia

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