Friday 15 April 2011

April A to Z blogging challenge Moths

Yesterday my husband asked me if I knew that some moths migrate. I hadn’t really thought about it but decided it sounded probable, as I knew butterflies migrated and moths and butterflies belong to the same order, Lepidoptera.

Then he asked me which would migrate most speedily – birds or moths. Logically, at least as far as logic exists in my brain, I thought it must be moths – they’re lighter and smaller – but in fact birds and moths take the same amount of time to travel.

Night-flying moths match birds in efficient speed and direction, flying between 30 and 65 km per hour, but use different tactics. With a following wind they may fly as fast as 90 kmh. Birds navigate using visual markers, like rivers or mountains, the sun as a compass, the earth’s magnetic field and, for those that fly by night, the stars. They also fly in flocks led by experienced adults. Moths do not fly in flocks but have a genetically pre-determined preferred direction and are able to detect fast-moving winds. They only migrate on nights when the winds are favourable for the direction in which they need to travel and choose the most auspicious altitude. They may fly as far as 700 km in an eight-hour flight.
File:Macroglossum stellatarum.jpg
Hummingbird Hawk-moth
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Most of the UK’s 2,500 species of moths are resident but some are visitors, often from as far away as North Africa, some 3,000 miles. One stunning moth is the Hummingbird Hawk-moth which journeys from the Mediterranean and North Africa. It arrives between April and December with most migrants appearing in August and September. In hotter summers greater numbers are seen. This moth breeds in UK and it is thought that some of the offspring may endure in milder winters.

The Silver Y moth has been monitored flying vertically to catch faster winds at high altitude. It breeds profusely but very few moths born in Britain survive the winter.


  1. This is quite interesting. Now that I think about it, I haven't seen many moths over here in Hawaii. The butterflies are different from the ones I used to see growing up.

  2. I like the idea of an auspicious altitude - I need to work on that myself!

  3. Fascinating and what an amazing picture!

  4. Fascinating! The fact that birds and moths fly at the same rate reminded me of the way feathers and stones etc fall at the same rate. Although I see it I can never believe it! I found lots of interesting moths in the ivy last year, which I then removed. I hope some of them survive. There is still some ivy on the end wall so there is a bit of habitat. I saw an elephant hawk moth once-amazing creature!

  5. Quite amazing to learn about the migration of moths. Had not realized this, nor that they could fly SO fast. Quite impressive!

  6. Mummy says she is now going to travel to work like a moth. If the wind isn't blowing in the right direction she gets to stay at home with me :)

  7. That was really interesting. My mother is terrified of moths. My grandmother used to grow tabacco plants when she was a child and then string them up her room to dry. Unfortunately, they attracted a lot of moths!

    Ellie Garratt

  8. Interesting, moth in our house have no chance to migrate or try to imigrate, they are eaten immediatly by cat Pookie !

  9. This was just fascinating to me. I read it to my daughter. We were both amazed by the speed at which the moths travel. Since they travel at night, I guess that is why I haven't seen any passing me in the fast lane.

  10. Migrating moths. I don't think I've ever even thought of such a thing. Very interesting.
    Just back today from a month in Europe. Exhausted, jet-lagged, and happy to be home with our dog, who was seriously spoiled by friends who love her.
    I used to have cats like Gattina's Pookie who ate moths. One of them ate grasshoppers, too.
    -- K

    Kay, Alberta, Canada
    An Unfittie's Guide to Adventurous Travel


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