Dragonflies with tiny fanny packs show migration patterns in new study

GUELPH, Ont. — A study in which insects were equipped with tiny radio-tracking fanny packs could help conservation efforts as populations around the world decline.

The research by University of Guelph biologists published in a scientific journal Wednesday tracked butterflies and green darner dragonflies on their migration through southern Ontario and into the northern United States using radio transmitters.

“We were able to document some pretty basic things that no one had ever done before,” said lead author Samantha Knight, who is also a program manager at the Nature Conservancy of Canada.

Researchers captured the insects on Ontario’s Bruce Peninsula in the falls of 2015 and 2016. The radio transmitters, which weighed about as much as a raindrop, were carefully glued on the bugs’ undersides kind of like fanny packs, Knight said.

The little packs emitted radio signals which could be picked up by towers along the insects’ migration route. The signals sent information about speed and distance back to researchers.

Knight explained the bugs’ breeding habits and the areas they stay in winter have been studied, but there’s almost no information about migration patterns.

Recent studies have shown that habitat loss, land-use changes and global warming mean up to 40 per cent of insect species are at risk of extinction. There’s also been a decline in bird populations that rely on insects for food.

When data started to flow in from the fanny packs, Knight said it was really astounding.

On average, the monarchs flew about 12 km/h and darners flew about 16 km/h. One darner surprised researchers by flying 77 km/h and travelling 122 kilometres in just one day.

“If a darner was flying through a town, a cop would pull it over,” said study co-author Ryan Norris.

The insects are likely to be even faster, added Norris. They were slowed down by the fanny packs, which weigh about half of the bugs’ body weight.

Norris explained the research showed insects are likely to fly high in the atmosphere to take advantage of the wind.

“There are insects flying over our heads all the time and we don’t know it.”

It also showed monarchs and darners fly faster in warmer temperatures, but they slow down if it gets too hot, so global warming could affect migration. Rain didn’t really have an effect on the bugs at all, Norris added.

The research, while preliminary, has opened doors to more knowledge about insects, Norris said. He expects technology to improve so that bug migration can be better understood.

It’s extremely important, he said, because researchers looking to develop effective conservation strategies need to know where insects go.

“It’s hard to predict what species are going to do if you don’t know what they are doing now.”

Just Posted

Two people die in Highway 11 crash

RCMP continue to investigate

Bank of Canada deputy governor Timothy Lane says Canadian economy resilient

OTTAWA — The Canadian economy remains resilient despite the global uncertainty caused… Continue reading

The Second Cup agrees to buy Ottawa chain Bridgehead Coffee for $9.5 million

MISSISSAUGA, Ont. — The Second Cup Ltd. says it has agreed to… Continue reading

Telus to buy German call centre firm Competence Call Center for $1.3 billion

VANCOUVER — Telus Corp. is buying a German call centre company through… Continue reading

High court to decide if it will hear Alberta man’s appeal in seniors slayings

OTTAWA — The Supreme Court of Canada is to release a decision… Continue reading

Your community calendar

Tuesday The Central Alberta Council on Aging will hold its Christmas General… Continue reading

NASCAR goes back to its roots with a huge Nashville blowout

NASHVILLE — Kyle Busch toted his championship trophy all over Nashville for… Continue reading

Alphonso Davies, Ashley Lawrence named Canada Soccer Players of the Month

TORONTO — Alphonso Davies and Ashley Lawrence have been named Canada Soccer… Continue reading

Much anticipated Star Wars-based ride debuts at Disney World

ORLANDO, Fla. — The resistance is rising. “Rise of the Resistance,” the… Continue reading

Alex Trebek among special 2020 Canadian Academy award recipients

TORONTO — Alex Trebek, David Suzuki, Tina Keeper and Daniel Levy will… Continue reading

Ennis records three points to help lift Senators over Oilers

Senators 5 Oilers 2 EDMONTON — Tyler Ennis had a goal and… Continue reading

Alberta Finance Minister voted MLA of the year in poll of political peers

EDMONTON — Finance Minister Travis Toews come on down, you’ve been voted… Continue reading

Quebec police seek potential victims of former cop, coach accused of sex crimes

LONGUEUIL, Que. — A former Montreal police officer and minor hockey coach… Continue reading

Most Read