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Massive seasonal high-altitude migrations of nocturnal insects above the agricultural plains of East China

Massive seasonal high-altitude migrations of nocturnal insects above the agricultural plains of East China

Huang, Jianrong, Feng, Hongqiang ORCID: 0000-0002-1171-248X , Drake, V. Alistair ORCID: 0000-0001-9031-7906 , Reynolds, Don ORCID: 0000-0001-8749-7491 , Gao, Boya, Chen, Fajun ORCID: 0000-0002-0770-8090 , Zhang, Guoyan, Zhu, Junsheng, Gao, Yuebo, Zhai, Baoping, Li, Guoping, Tian, Caihong, Huang, Bo, Hu, Gao ORCID: 0000-0002-1000-5687 and Chapman, Jason W. (2024) Massive seasonal high-altitude migrations of nocturnal insects above the agricultural plains of East China. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 121 (18):e2317646121. pp. 1-9. ISSN 0027-8424 (Print), 1091-6490 (Online) (doi:

46833_REYNOLDS_Massive_seasonal_high-altitude_migrations_of_nocturnal_insects_above_the_agricultural_plains_of_East_China.pdf - Published Version
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High-altitude, windborne movements of insects occur on an enormous scale, and have significant impacts on ecosystem function, provision of beneficial services, disease spread, and agricultural productivity. We used a combination of insect monitoring radar, balloon-borne nets, and searchlight traps to characterize the intensity, taxonomic composition, direction, and geographical extent of nocturnal insect “bioflows” occurring at heights to ~1 km above the agricultural lands of East China during spring, summer, and fall. We demonstrate seasonal northward and southward flows and show that the transport of insect biomass is considerably greater above this globally important food-production region than above the United Kingdom (the only other region where it has been quantified to date) and is dominated by species that are agricultural pests. Long-distance migrations of insects contribute to ecosystem functioning but also have important economic impacts when the migrants are pests or provide ecosystem services. We combined radar monitoring, aerial sampling, and searchlight trapping, to quantify the annual pattern of nocturnal insect migration above the densely populated agricultural lands of East China. A total of ~9.3 trillion nocturnal insect migrants (15,000 t of biomass), predominantly Lepidoptera, Hemiptera, and Diptera, including many crop pests and disease vectors, fly at heights up to 1 km above this 600 km-wide region every year. Larger migrants (>10 mg) exhibited seasonal reversal of movement directions, comprising northward expansion during spring and summer, followed by southward movements during fall. This north–south transfer was not balanced, however, with southward movement in fall 0.66× that of northward movement in spring and summer. Spring and summer migrations were strongest when the wind had a northward component, while in fall, stronger movements occurred on winds that allowed movement with a southward component; heading directions of larger insects were generally close to the track direction. These findings indicate adaptations leading to movement in seasonally favorable directions. We compare our results from China with similar studies in Europe and North America and conclude that ecological patterns and behavioral adaptations are similar across the Northern Hemisphere. The predominance of pests among these nocturnal migrants has severe implications for food security and grower prosperity throughout this heavily populated region, and knowledge of their migrations is potentially valuable for forecasting pest impacts and planning timely management actions.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: insect migration; radar entomology; Lepidoptera,biomass flux; crop pests
Subjects: Q Science > Q Science (General)
S Agriculture > S Agriculture (General)
S Agriculture > SF Animal culture
Faculty / School / Research Centre / Research Group: Faculty of Engineering & Science
Faculty of Engineering & Science > Natural Resources Institute
Faculty of Engineering & Science > Natural Resources Institute > Agriculture, Health & Environment Department
Faculty of Engineering & Science > Natural Resources Institute > Pest Behaviour Research Group
Last Modified: 24 Apr 2024 10:35

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