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How do bumblebees fly? Study finds out

Read time: 2 mins

Insects were the pioneers of flight on the planet, having developed wings early in their evolutionary history. Today, though a wide range of insects can claim this distinction, some, like the dragonfly, have exemplified this act. Despite their mastery and long history, knowing how such  insects have achieve complex moves mid-flight, remains a mystery. Rumors and myths have also questioned the flight of insects like bumblebees, despite clear evidence showing otherwise, mainly since we can’t understand how they fly with their disproportionate body and wing sizes. Now, a new study by scientists from the National Center for Biological Sciences and Indian Institute of Science may have an answer to some of the questions on how insects fly. The small size of their bodies imposes severe constraints on their ability to fly, as the wings need to generate sufficient lift to stay in the air. The researchers looked at the role of thorax (the part between the neck and abdomen) in enabling these insects to overcome some of the constraints of size. The researchers found that thoraxes of these insects had developed special myogenic and asynchronous muscles that enable fast movement of the wings, while also giving the insect precise control over their movement. Additionally, the study also showed linkages to the thorax and an efficient clutch and gear system which further helped them achieve the incredible wing speeds. With a better understanding of the bio-mechanics of the thorax and the underlying sensory processing, we can start to understand this seeming simple ability of insects, achieved with some of the most complex phenomenon of insect morphology.