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The biometeorology of high-altitude insect layers.

Wood, C. R. (2007) The biometeorology of high-altitude insect layers. PhD thesis, University of Reading

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Flight at high altitude is part of a migration strategy that maximises insect population displacement. This thesis represents the first substantial analysis of insect migration and layering in Europe. Vertical-looking entomological radar has revealed specific characteristics of high-altitude flight: in particular layering (where a large proportion of the migrating insects are concentrated in a narrow altitude band). The meteorological mechanisms underpinning the formation of these layers are the focus of this thesis. Aerial netting samples and radar data revealed four distinct periods of high-altitude insect migration: dawn, daytime, dusk, and night-time. The most frequently observed nocturnal profiles during the summertime were layers. It is hypothesised that nocturnal layers initiate at a critical altitude (200–500 m above ground level) and time (20:00–22:00 hours UTC). Case study analysis, statistical analysis, and a Lagrangian trajectory model showed that nocturnal insect layers probably result from the insects’ response to meteorological conditions. Temperature was the variable most correlated with nocturnal insect layer presence and intensity because insects are poikilothermic, and temperatures experienced during high-altitude migration in temperate climates are expected to be marginal for many insects’ flight. Hierarchical effects were detected such that other variables—specifically wind speed—were only correlated with insect layer presence and intensity once temperatures were warm. The trajectory model developed comprised: (i) insect flight characteristics; (ii) turbulent winds (which cause vertical spread of the layer); and (iii) mean wind speed, which normally leads to horizontal displacements of hundreds of kilometres in a single migratory flight. This thesis has revealed that there is considerable migratory activity over the UK in the summer months, and a range of fascinating phenomena can be observed (including layers). The UK has moved from one of the least studied to perhaps the best studied environments of aerial insect migration and layering in the world.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Thesis Supervisor:
Thesis/Report Department:Department of Meteorology
Identification Number/DOI:
Divisions:Science > School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Sciences > Department of Meteorology
ID Code:852
Uncontrolled Keywords:Insects, moths, radar, layers, boundary layer, nocturnal jet, temperature inversion, Lagrangian modelling, UM, airborne insects

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