Friday, June 13, 2014

Flying insect swarms

I am currently writing a 'Quick Guide' for Current Biology on moving insect swarms. I was inspired to write this by the recent work by the Rome group on midge and mosquito swarms. Their paper on collective motion of these Swarms is already available on arxiv, and will soon appear in a 'real' journal. This work was very nicely presented by Stefania Melillo and  Lorenzo del Castello at the recent Collective Motion 2014 meeting. My quick guide will focus on this work, and on some recent work by Derek Paley's group on mosquitos. And it will also take in honey bee swarms and locusts.

Flying insect swarms come in all shapes and sizes. Last week the USA national weather service found that a grasshopper swarm showed up on their weather radar. The images (on the right) show the sheer scale of the swarm, which was probably flying at 700 meters. This is still relatively small compared to locust swarms, which have been reported to have flown across the Atlantic.

Although the mosquito and midge swarms studied scientifically are lot smaller than locust and grasshopper swarms, in the wild they can still be pretty impressive. The picture on the right is a "mosquito tornado" photographed by Filipa Scarpa. I have no idea what the mosquitos are doing here, but its pretty amazing.

If you have any more insect swarms you think I should cover in the guide, tell me. The deadline is the end of the month.

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