Common motion emerges in swarms of only 10 midges

Swarms of midges may need only 10 individuals before they start to fly together as if they are all of one mind.

Stefan Berkner/FLICKR (CC BY 2.0)

Thinking of swarms conjures up images of hundreds to thousands of insects moving as if they have a common mind. But it may only take 10 individuals to spur that type of collective behavior, scientists report August 12 in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface

The results, based on experiments with Chironomus riparius midges, offer clues to the group dynamics of flocks of birds and schools of fish and may also help to build better materials and machines inspired by nature, the scientists say.

Ashley Yeager is the associate news editor at Science News. She has worked at The Scientist, the Simons Foundation, Duke University and the W.M. Keck Observatory, and was the web producer for Science News from 2013 to 2015. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and a master’s degree in science writing from MIT.

More Stories from Science News on Physics