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Trading energy for safety, bees extend legs to stay stable in wind
Date:6/2/2009

in flight.

"This increases the bees' moment of inertia and reduces rolling," Combes says, "much like a spinning ice skater who extends her arms to slow down."

This rolling increased with flight speed until the bees were rolled to one side or the other roughly 80 percent of the time, at which point the bees would become unstable and either crash to the ground or be blown from the airstream. Bees were able to reach higher speeds when flying in lower levels of turbulence, altered through the use of different types of screens to deflect air flow in the air jet.

While Combes and Dudley only studied 10 species of euglossine bees, Combes says that this stabilizing behavior is likely to be seen across Hymenoptera, the order of insects that includes bees, wasps, ants, and sawflies, and that turbulent airflow may decrease the flight performance of many other flying insects as well.


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Contact: Steve Bradt
steve_bradt@harvard.edu
617-496-8070
Harvard University
Source:Eurekalert

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