You have probably all heard, at one point or another, that the bumblebee is nothing short of a scientific enigma – that our greatest minds, who have managed to place a man on the moon, have yet to explain the aerodynamics of the bumblebee’s flight. Unfortunately (or rather fortunately) this is all a misconception. Studies in recent years have done justice to explain just how the bumblebee manages to contradict known laws of aerodynamics.
The reason why the bumblebee has baffled scientists for so long is because its flight follows a pattern unlike any aircraft, animal, or even other insect thus far observed. Unlike, planes and birds, which use their wings to produce an ‘airfoil’ in order to generate lift, bumblebees rely on tiny movements and vibrations of their wings. This produces air vortexes around their wings, somewhat like a helicopter, and this lays the foundations for the bumblebee’s generation of lift.
Research teams at Oxford University performed a series of tests utilizing wind tunnels with smoke trails in order to study the bumblebee’s approach to flight. According to Doctor Bromphrey, “Our observations show that, instead of the aerodynamic finesse found in most other insects, bumblebees have a adopted a brute force approach powered by a huge thorax and fuelled by energy-rich nectar.” Since the bumblebee’s awkward shape prevents it from achieving aerodynamic efficiency, its wings must make up for this by beating up to 200 times per second. In fact, the bumblebee’s brain is hardwired to make these minute movements. Ultimately, this balance allows the bumblebee to be maneuverable albeit highly inefficient.
Why the bumblebee’s evolution has led to this phenomenon continues to baffle scientists. One explanation is that since the bumblebee’s primary purposes are to obtain nectar from flowers and to consequently transport this nectar back to the hive, its form allows for it to contain a maximum amount of nectar however at the sacrifice of flight mobility and ability
- Science News:Flight Of The Bumble Bee Is Based More On Brute Force Than Aerodynamic Efficiency
- The New England Skeptical Society: Scientists Report: Bumblebees Can’t Fly
- The strange case of the bumble-bee that flew
- Straight Dope: Is it aerodynamically impossible for bumblebees to fly?
- DC Physics: Flight of the Bumblebee
- Mail Online: Secret to bumblebee flight revealed: Insects defy gravity through brute force