Hoverflies use a time-compensated sun compass to orientate during autumn migration

Richard Massy, Will L.S. Hawkes, Toby Doyle, Jolyon Troscianko, Myles H.M. Menz, Nicholas W. Roberts, Jason W. Chapman, Karl R. Wotton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


The sun is the most reliable celestial cue for orientation available to daytime migrants. It is widely assumed that diurnal migratory insects use a 'time-compensated sun compass' to adjust for the changing position of the sun throughout the day, as demonstrated in some butterfly species. The mechanisms used by other groups of diurnal insect migrants remain to be elucidated. Migratory species of hoverflies (Diptera: Syrphidae) are one of the most abundant and beneficial groups of diurnal migrants, providing multiple ecosystem services and undergoing directed seasonal movements throughout much of the temperate zone. To identify the hoverfly navigational strategy, a flight simulator was used to measure orientation responses of the hoverflies Scaeva pyrastri and Scaeva selenitica to celestial cues during their autumn migration. Hoverflies oriented southwards when they could see the sun and shifted this orientation westward following a 6 h advance of their circadian clocks. Our results demonstrate the use of a time-compensated sun compass as the primary navigational mechanism, consistent with field observations that hoverfly migration occurs predominately under clear and sunny conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20211805
Pages (from-to)794-796
Number of pages3
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1959
Publication statusPublished - 29 Sept 2021


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