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How Far up in the Sky Have Living Things Been Found?

At any given time in the summer months, there are about three billion insects flying high up in the sky. The highest-flying insect found so far was, surprisingly, a termite. A Super-Constellation airplane carried an insect trap for a study of such high-flying bugs and captured a termite at 19,000 feet (5,800 meters) — that's about 3.6 miles (5.8 kilometers) — up in the sky.

More Flying High Facts:

  • Insects manage to travel at such heights by hijacking strong wind currents to carry them along — and up. They have an internal sense to catch the wind currents just right.

  • Moths and butterflies are commonly found soaring thousands of feet (several hundred meters) above the ground at speeds of up to 60 miles per hour (about 100 kilometers per hour) — as fast or faster than many migrating birds.

  • Birds still have it over the insects, however. The highest-flying bird, a Ruppell's griffon, was detected at 37,900 feet (11,551 meters), or 7.2 miles (11.6 kilometers) above ground.
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