Simple rules guide dragonfly migration

Martin Wikelski, David Moskowitz, James S. Adelman, Jim Cochran, David S. Wilcove, Michael L. May

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

213 Scopus citations


Every year billions of butterflies, dragonflies, moths and other insects migrate across continents, and considerable progress has been made in understanding population-level migratory phenomena. However, little is known about destinations and strategies of individual insects. We attached miniaturized radio transmitters (ca 300 mg) to the thoraxes of 14 individual dragonflies (common green darners, Anax junius) and followed them during their autumn migration for up to 12 days, using receiver-equipped Cessna airplanes and ground teams. Green darners exhibited distinct stopover and migration days. On average, they migrated every 2.9±0.3 days, and their average net advance was 58±11 km in 6.1±0.9 days (11.9±2.8 km d-1) in a generally southward direction (186±52°). They migrated exclusively during the daytime, when wind speeds were less than 25 kmh -1, regardless of wind direction, but only after two nights of successively lower temperatures (decrease of 2.1±0.6 °C in minimum temperature). The migratory patterns and apparent decision rules of green darners are strikingly similar to those proposed for songbirds, and may represent a general migration strategy for long-distance migration of organisms with high self-propelled flight speeds.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)325-329
Number of pages5
JournalBiology Letters
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 22 2006

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


  • Decision rules
  • Dispersal
  • Flight
  • Insect
  • Radiotracking


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