Monarch butterfly © jeff / iStock
Strangely, little research has been carried out into the flight speed of insects.
In 1926, an entomologist reckoned on a deer botfly fleeting past at 370m/s. But this computes to 1,330km/h, which is faster than sound and obviously nonsense.
Anecdotal reports detail monarch butterflies keeping up with cars on the highway and dragonflies with light aircraft at 145km/h, but it is difficult to separate out wind speeds here.
Serious measurements have only been taken for a handful of commercially important species, tethered in wind tunnels – such as locusts at 33km/h and the tobacco hornworm hawkmoth at 36km/h.
The best guess so far at a fastest flier is a horsefly: its speed was estimated at 145km/h. If this record is ever beaten, it is likely to be by another fly species.
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