Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Hovering is a bother for bees: Fast flight is more stable

Date:
March 14, 2013
Source:
Elsevier
Summary:
Bumblebees are much more unstable when they hover than when they fly fast, according to new research. Scientists used a mathematical model to analyze the way bumblebees fly at different speeds, showing that the bumblebee is unstable when it hovers and flies slowly, and becomes neutral or weakly stable at medium and high flight speeds.

Bumblebees are much more unstable when they hover than when they fly fast.
Credit: © Den / Fotolia

Bumblebees are much more unstable when they hover than when they fly fast, according to new research published this month in the Journal of Theoretical Biology.

Related Articles


The authors of the paper, Na Xu and Mao Sun from Beijing University of Aeronautics & Astronautics in China, used a mathematical model to analyze the way bumblebees fly at different speeds, showing that the bumblebee is unstable when it hovers and flies slowly, and becomes neutral or weakly stable at medium and high flight speeds.

The instability at hovering and low speed is mainly caused by a sideways wind made by the movement of the wings -- a 'positive roll moment'. As the bee flies faster, the wings bend towards the back of the body, reducing the effect of the sideways wind and increasing the stability of its flight.

According to the authors the results could be useful in the development of small flying machines like robotic insects.

"Dynamic flight stability is of great importance in the study of biomechanics of insect flight," said Mao Sun. "It is the basis for studying flight control, because the inherent stability of a flying system represents the dynamic properties of the basic system. It also plays a major role in the development of insect-like micro-air vehicles."

In recent years, with the understanding of the aerodynamic force mechanisms of insect flight, researchers have been devoting more effort to the area of flight dynamics.

The study further refutes the persistent misconception that, according to physics, bumblebees shouldn't be able to fly. The fallacy can be traced back to Le Vol Des Insects (Hermann and Cle, Paris, 1934) by French entomologist August Magnan -- on page 8 he mentions bumblebees, stating, "First prompted by what is done in aviation, I applied the laws of air resistance to insects, and I arrived, with Mr. Sainte-Laguλ, at this conclusion that their flight is impossible."

This new research looks at bumblebee flight using the same methods as used in quantum mechanics. By using average measurements -- such as wing size and shape, body mass, and upwards and downwards forces -- the researchers made the stability analysis of the flapping flight of an insect mathematically the same as that of a rigid airplane. By using the mathematical model rather than studying live bees, the researchers could be more accurate in their analysis of mechanical flight.

"The computational approach allows simulation of the inherent stability of a flapping motion in the absence of active control, which is very difficult, even impossible, to achieve in experiments using real insects," Sun further explained.

Xu and Sun used a model of a bumblebee with wings approximately the same size and shape as a real bee's -- flat plates with rounded edges, and with a thickness of three percent of the length of one wing. The outline they used of the body was also approximately the same as that of a bumblebee.

Previous research has looked at the hovering flight dynamics of different insects, including the dronefly, fruit fly and bumblebee. However, in hovering flight, there is no consideration of forwards movement, and the forces created by the wings cancel each other out. This study details that both vertical and horizontal movement need to be taken into consideration to determine how stable the flight is overall.

The results show a significant difference in stability measurements between bumblebees and droneflies -- something the researchers think is connected to the size and shape of the insects' wings. They plan to conduct further research in this area to compare the stability of flight at different speeds of bumblebees and droneflies.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Elsevier. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Na Xu, Mao Sun. Lateral dynamic flight stability of a model bumblebee in hovering and forward flight. Journal of Theoretical Biology, 2013; 319: 102 DOI: 10.1016/j.jtbi.2012.11.033

Cite This Page:

Elsevier. "Hovering is a bother for bees: Fast flight is more stable." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 March 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130314110609.htm>.
Elsevier. (2013, March 14). Hovering is a bother for bees: Fast flight is more stable. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130314110609.htm
Elsevier. "Hovering is a bother for bees: Fast flight is more stable." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130314110609.htm (accessed December 20, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Matter & Energy News

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Building Google Into Cars

Building Google Into Cars

Reuters - Business Video Online (Dec. 19, 2014) — Google's next Android version could become the standard that'll power your vehicle's entertainment and navigation features, Reuters has learned. Fred Katayama reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
AP Review: Nikon D750 and GoPro Hero 4

AP Review: Nikon D750 and GoPro Hero 4

AP (Dec. 19, 2014) — What to buy an experienced photographer or video shooter? There is some strong gear on the market from Nikon and GoPro. The AP's Ron Harris takes a closer look. (Dec. 19) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Double-Amputee Becomes First To Move Two Prosthetic Arms With His Mind

Double-Amputee Becomes First To Move Two Prosthetic Arms With His Mind

Buzz60 (Dec. 19, 2014) — A double-amputee makes history by becoming the first person to wear and operate two prosthetic arms using only his mind. Jen Markham has the story. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Navy Unveils Robot Fish

Navy Unveils Robot Fish

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Dec. 18, 2014) — The U.S. Navy unveils an underwater device that mimics the movement of a fish. Tara Cleary reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins