Washington, April 4 : A new study has suggested that migrating moths are good navigators, equipped with natural "compasses".
According to a report in Live Science, every year, millions of moths hop aboard wind currents and flutter hundreds of miles southward to suitable mating lands.
Without flight control, the furry insects could land in unsuitable spots and die.
Now, a new study by researchers from Rothamsted Research in England, have determined that the migrating moths are not totally at the mercy of the wind and are equipped with "compasses".
"There has been speculation for many years about whether insects that rely on the wind for their migrations can have any control over the direction in which they migrate," said lead researcher Jason Chapman.
Using a radar-beam technique, Chapman and his colleagues monitored about 200 million silver Y moths, a plant-feeder that migrates at night, flying southward over the U.K.
Results have shown that most of the moths took wing only on nights with south winds. Once airborne, the moths expedited their commute by flying in a roughly downwind direction while concentrating at altitudes with the fastest winds.
The moths also compensated when the wind direction was way off target.
"When the wind is not exactly aligned with their preferred direction, they take this into account and head off in a direction that will partially compensate for this wind drift," Chapman told LiveScience.
"However, how they do this remains a mystery, as they somehow have to detect the wind direction while flying hundreds of meters above the ground and in very low light levels," he added.
According to Chapman, the moths use a geomagnetic compass to stay on track, similar to the type found in migratory birds.