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How High Do Butterflies Fly And Their Estimated Flying Speed?

by Abdul Manan
Published: Last Updated on
How High Do Butterflies Fly?

Birds are the only known animals that can fly up to exceptional heights. However, some insects/butterflies can also fly that high during a specific time of the year. An African native bird Ruppel, griffon vulture can fly up to the height of 37000 feet and there are some insects that can reach up to this height, scientists say.

How High Do Butterflies Fly?

Flight of Insects

Studies have shown that there are several species of locusts that can fly up to and height of 14764 feet, bugs, mayflies and caddisflies can reach up to a height of 16404 feet. However, several species of flies and butterflies can reach up to an even higher altitude of 19685 feet. 

This usually happens every September when the monarch butterflies start their migration journey in which they travel 2500 kilometers from colder regions to warmer climates. 

Usually, butterflies use biological clocks to plan their migration and their response to word changing climate. During flight ultraviolet navigation system are used by the butterflies to stimulate their flight and distinguish their route for quick and safe migration, researchers say.


Flight Challenges to Butterflies

As we know that they cannot maintain their body temperature according to their surroundings therefore, these insects migrate toward warmer regions to survive the severe weather. However, during their flight, insects face the same challenges which the birds do during their high flights like low oxygen, lower density, and low temperature.

Later, these challenges make the journey tough for them because they cannot regulate their body temperature. Therefore, the butterflies cannot fly at higher altitudes for a longer period. If the insects keep flying at higher altitudes for longer period the colder temperature will shut down their body mechanism and lack of oxygen will make it difficult for them to swing their wings. 

Flight style and Challenges to Butterflies

Low air density will reduce the air molecules between their wings which they mostly use to make a push to lift themself up in the air. However, there are some insect species, bumblebees, which can fly higher because of their wider wings which can trap the air easily to lift themselves up in the air. They can hover up to 29528 feet higher than the world’s highest mountain the Mount Everest. 


Butterflies Flying Speed

Moreover, studies have revealed that butterflies can fly with a highest speed of 30 miles per hour and even faster. However, at slow speed they can fly at a speed of 5 miles per hour. Therefore, mostly butterflies can easily fly up to 20 to 30 miles per day but this journey depends on the wind and surrounding temperature. Both can hinder their journey in severe ways. 


Monarch butterflies are often compared with hawks because both need thermal airs to boost their flying and cross large water bodies to reach their future destination. However, monarch butterflies are open to moving through terrains but hawks continuously use thermal airs to keep up its flying.


Butterflies Flying Speed analysis

Surface winds can severely affect the migration journey of monarch butterflies therefore they prefer tailwinds coming from the north.  These airs can push them towards the South region. However, strong winds coming from the South can impede their journey and their abilities to fly higher.

Flying Pattern

During unfavorable winds, monarchs butterflies usually roost into protected locations to save their energy and time. Monarchs usually take shelter in places protected from wind and where they can easily access nectar sources to facilitate their stay. As soon the winds became favorable the butterflies immediately start their journey to warm regions.

Scientists have revealed that butterflies usually fly during the daytime and come down to shelters as the night starts. Monarchs do not fly in flocks as the birds and major other animals do during their migration. Therefore, researchers are very curious about their overnight roosts and are continuously studying their behavior and flying patterns to better understand their biology.

Usually, these migrations are a one-time journey for the monarch butterflies as they have a very short lifespan in which they can only migrate to one side or can survive for a single season.

Butterflies Fly Height Comparison

Famous Existing Things  Height
Passenger Jet 36,000 feet
Mount Everest 29,028 feet
Highest flight of butterfly during fall migration ever seen (Glider pilots) 11,000 feet
Songbird flight during migration 2 to 4,000 feet
Burj Khalifa (World’s tallest building) 2,717 feet
Flight of hot air balloon 2,000 feet
Flying butterfly disappear from eye (Binoculars) 5 to 600 feet
Flight of birds during migration 500 feet
Tallest living tree (Hyperion) 379.7 feet
Flying butterfly disappear from eye (Naked Eye) 2 to 300 feet
Statue of Liberty 305 feet

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