Look Up! The Billion-Bug Highway You Can't See

Step outside on a clear day and look up. What do you see? Blue, right? Perhaps you spotted a bird or a plane, but otherwise, nothing……or so you think. It turns out that right above you — totally invisible — is an enormous herd of animal life. In reality, there are billions of insects up there. According to researchers, there are three billion insects passing over our heads in the summer. Closer to the equator, that number could rise to as many as six billion. So what are they doing up there? Sometimes insects and spiders need to leave where they are and go somewhere else for food or space. You can see them launching themselves. They stand straight up on their back legs and push themselves into a thin layer of air where it’s more turbulent, and then they can catch an updraft that will carry them aloft. Termites have been recorded as reaching heights of 19,000 feet. How can such small critters survive the wind? Amazingly, they’re tougher than we think. Of 1,610 insects capture by a team of scientists, 97% were alive and undamaged. When it comes to birds, they put the insects to shame. In fact, the highest-flying bird, the griffon vulture, has been reported at an altitude of 37,000 feet. Although insects face setbacks in high-altitude areas, some have developed adaptations that give them unusual flight capabilities.