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Annu Rev Entomol. 2011;56:337-56. doi: 10.1146/annurev-ento-120709-144820.

Recent insights from radar studies of insect flight.

Author information

  • 1Plant and Invertebrate Ecology Department, Rothamsted Research, Harpenden, Hertfordshire AL5 2JQ, United Kingdom. jason.chapman@bbsrc.ac.uk


Radar has been used to study insects in flight for over 40 years and has helped to establish the ubiquity of several migration phenomena: dawn, morning, and dusk takeoffs; approximate downwind transport; concentration at wind convergences; layers in stable nighttime atmospheres; and nocturnal common orientation. Two novel radar designs introduced in the late 1990s have significantly enhanced observing capabilities. Radar-based research now encompasses foraging as well as migration and is increasingly focused on flight behavior and the environmental cues influencing it. Migrant moths have been shown to employ sophisticated orientation and height-selection strategies that maximize displacements in seasonally appropriate directions; they appear to have an internal compass and to respond to turbulence features in the airflow. Tracks of foraging insects demonstrate compensation for wind drift and use of optimal search paths to locate resources. Further improvements to observing capabilities, and employment in operational as well as research roles, appear feasible.

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