Surviving in the wild isn't easy. Many creatures in nature have figured out the best way to find food, successfully reproduce, and live to see another day is pretty basic: stick together. Virtually every corner of the world sees insects, birds, reptiles, and mammals creating swarms to beat the odds (and predators) through mob-like behavior. But contrary to what most people think, swarms are not only reserved for buzzing locusts and crusty crabs - it seems some pretty cute creatures in the animal kingdom can also be seen moving in big groups, and when they do, the results can be both darling and terrifying.
There are plenty of cute animals that are scary in swarms. And if you envision swarms of baby animals as these cute, cuddly experiences, you might want to stop reading now.
Starlings Are Cute - Except When They're Swooping In A Flock
Known as European starlings, these darling speckled, iridescent-black birds have been a regular sight in the North American sky since 1880 when a group of Shakespeare-loving enthusiasts brought them over from England. Individually, they appear to be harmless birds with small yellow beaks who peck delicately at seeds and sing out occasionally, but when they flock together in the thousands, they create a black cloud of pulsating, twisting energy that can destroy local crops and ruin a perfectly clean windshield. Known as "mumurations," these swaths of starlings allow the birds to fly free of predators and travel large distances without tiring.
Fruit Bats Flock Together To Find Food
While some people may not consider bats cute, this notion is usually based more on fear than anything else. Tiny in size, with velvety dark heads, dog-like ears, and wide, curious eyes, fruit bats are far more interested in eating, sleeping, and flying at night than bothering humans. Despite the vampiric myths, fruit bats aren't bloodsuckers - but they can still be mighty intimidating when they get together for a nocturnal flight. In Samal, Philippines, these airborne mice can create swarms in the millions - yes, millions - while looking for food and nighttime adventure. This may sound terrifying to the average person (and the local farmers), but the owner of the biggest bat cave in the area wants to build more homes for the bats to protect them from natural predators and ensure their population growth.
Monarch Butterfly's Migration Is Terrifying In Spirit And Reality
Every year, a magical thing happens - over 60 million Monarch butterflies migrate from Canada to the forest of central Mexico where they make their winter homes in the tops of warmer trees. This great spectacle of flight covers 2,500 miles and gives onlookers a chance to see one of nature's most delightful "swarms" in action. The flight of the butterflies in late October also coincides with one of Mexico's most honored holidays - Dia de los Muertos or The Day of the Dead - and is believed by many to represent the souls of their deceased relatives coming home to visit. Tourists and locals can see these resting Monarchs through the winter months and partake in an annual Mariposa Festival dedicated to their temporary residence in the area.
Ladybugs Don't Act So Lady Like In Swarms
Probably the cutest of all insects, a ladybug's landing is often seen as a harbinger of good things. But what about a swarm of ladybugs? Though they take on a more menacing appearance in such numbers, the sweet bugs only group together to find warmth during the colder months. Because they like to hibernate in clusters, an individual ladybug will emit a certain pheromone that can eventually attract droves. If they can find a place inside to gather, they will - an alarming fact for anyone who lives in a place highly populated with ladybugs, like New England. While their swarming behavior can be disconcerting to some, these little black and white cuties are harmless and usually disappear after a short time.
Pink Flamingos Party At One African Lake So Hard, They Can Be Seen From Space
Decidedly the only pink swarm in nature, a flamingo gathering is by far the most unusual in nature. On the Tanzanian-Kenyan border sits Lake Natron where the alkaline in the water is so high, it burns the skin and eyes of any animal not accustomed to it. Sodium carbonate and other minerals flow into the lake from the surrounding hills and can actually mummify animals unfortunate enough to be exposed. But not the pink flamingo - for them, this lake is the best party spot on earth. Migrating in numbers of close to 2.5 million, these birds come to the area each year to find food, breed, and create unbelievable pink landscapes that have even been known to take the shape of a flamingo.
Sadly, this beloved spot has recently been ruined by human pollution, and the birds have since begun moving to similar areas in Kenya where they are so prolific, they can even be seen from space.
Amassing Walruses Can Get Weird When Provoked
Even though walruses are far too massive to really "swarm," these beasts are not to be taken lightly when they get together, an event that is becoming increasingly common given the extreme ice melting in the northern parts of the planet. Unlike birds and insects, walruses do not gather and migrate - they sit. And if they are startled or upset during this hang time, their mellow nature can quickly give way to fierce anger, even creating a full-on stampede strong enough to crush younger walruses. Near Point Lay, AK, the US Fish and Wildlife Service requires all aircraft to fly at least a half mile above these walrus gatherings, as the noise of planes could be enough to startle them into a frenzy. Although they are often seen lounging in massive groups, it is rare for their numbers to reach the thousands and has only been seen a few times in Russia and Alaska.
Wildebeest Have An Annual Stampede, So Watch Out
Unlike the walruses, these giant horned mammals don't do a lot of lying around. Appearing like shaggy, rugged cows with ornate horns, these creatures are both tough and agile. When wildebeests get together for their annual stampede, the ground from Tanzania to Kenya literally shakes with the beat of a over a million hooves - the largest migration in the natural world. While they travel close to 500 miles together, there is no set leader for the group. Unlike most swarms or herds that stick together for safety, the wildebeest actually put themselves in the eye of tiger (literally) when they migrate, as predators on the Serengeti see them as one long delicious line of lunch meat. During their annual run, about 250,000 wildebeests are eaten by local carnivores such as lions or crocodiles, or they die from thirst, hunger, or exhaustion during the massive journey.
Cownose Rays Glide Together In The Sea - Up To 10,000 Of Them
Like giant leaves floating in the ocean currents, these rays can be seen by the thousands off the coast of Mexico. Unlike some other migrations, their journey actually takes place twice a year as they look for warmer, kinder waters. Appearing as a golden wave against the blue water of the Yucatan Peninsula, these elegant swimmers can travel in groups of up to 10,000 rays.
Up close, these creatures appear to have an amused expression, with curious eyes and a smiling mouth. But while they may look like velvet butterflies of the deep, rays also have poisonous stingers that can kill a man in no time if pointed in the right place. When they travel together, however, the effect is peaceful as they glide silently in the same direction, content just to be together. But for a human witnessing this mass migration? It can actually be pretty terrifying.