Amazing High-Speed Videos Reveal Hidden Details of Insect Flight

bug in flight photo

Photo via plastAnka via Flickr Creative Commons

Bugs move so quickly that it seems impossible to tell how they really move their wings and fly. But Wired has a crazy collection of high-speed videos showing insect flight. Check out what it looks like as a ladybug takes off, a dragonfly escaping a frog, and how a moth collects nectar. The videos are from University of Washington Ph.D. student Andrew Mountcastle and labmate Armin Hinterwirth.

"I refer to high-speed cameras as time microscopes. You see things that you can't see with your naked eye," he told Wired.

It's amazing to see a lady bug move its armor out of the way so these tiny, fragile wings can carry it places. And check out how elegant a moth is in flight:

"If there's a breeze, if their food source is blowing around, they track it while hovering. And as you can see in that video, their wings bend and twist quite a bit, When I started five years ago, we knew that insect wings deformed, but we knew very little about the aerodynamic consequences of these deformations," Mountcastle told Wired.

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Here a dragonfly takes off from a stalk just fractions of a second before a frog can grab it.

Slowing things down like this is how researchers in biomimicry figure out how to apply the ways bugs move to new robots, such as what we saw a few months ago when researchers mimicked how a butterfly flaps its wings to create a new aerial machine.

Wired has many more videos showing how incredible insects are when we slow them down to a speed we lumbering humans can process.

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