Our Helicoverpa CSIRO work with the Rothamsted Research Institute is out! The Helicoverpa armigera moths (cotton bollworm) are migratory megapests that can decimate crops in all known continents (in the Americas the very closely related species is known as Helicoverpa zea but H. armigera has now begun to invade). They can fly hundreds of kilometers by catching air currents and letting themselves drift, something that requires not only stores but also strength.
Chris Jones has an awesome paper at Molecular Ecology where he not only presents a really cool device for measuring flight activity in moths (caution: it involves tethering) but presents the first evidence of how certain genes facilitate these moths to fly so far by comparing strong versus weak fliers acquired (and phenotyped) from natural populations. As we write in the abstract: “[..] genes important to the mobilization of lipids as flight fuel, the development of flight muscle structure and the regulation of hormones that influence migratory physiology.”. Awesome work and hopefully more to come (with genetic mapping)!