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.
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.
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.
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.
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.