Science & Technology


The Bumblebee & "Aerodynamic Efficiency"

Posted 66 months ago|3 comments|1,639 views
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Plain curiosity has always made me wonder about the bumblebee... Since I found out about its 'relationship' with the conventional 'Law of Aerodynamics', I have always been glad that the poor creature was blatantly ignorant of the scores of scientists shaking their heads in disapproval of its defiant and 'unlawful flight'.
Well, now it seems that 'science' has finally cleared the 'crude' aviator of any 'breach or disobedience' of the

According to Science Daily on May 10, 2009, Oxford University scientists have discovered that "Brute force rather than aerodynamic efficiency is the key to bumblebee flight".
The same article explains that the scientists decided to go back to the insect itself and use smoke, a wind tunnel and high-speed cameras to observe in detail how real bumblebee wings work in free flight. They also found that "the bumblebee flight is surprisingly inefficient – aerodynamically-speaking it’s as if the insect is ‘split in half’ as not only do its left and right wings flap independently but the airflow around them never joins up to help it slip through the air more easily."

Their observations showed 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 fueled by energy-rich nectar," said Dr Richard Bomphrey of the Department of Zoology, co-author of a report of the research published this month in Experiments in Fluids. "This approach may be due to its particularly wide body shape, or it could have evolved to make bumblebees more maneuverable in the air at the cost of a less efficient flying style."

Professor Adrian Thomas of Oxford’s Department of Zoology, co-author of the report, said: "a bumblebee is a tanker-truck, its job is to transport nectar and pollen back to the hive. Efficiency is unlikely to be important for that way of life."

Apparently, the ol' talk that "bumblebees shouldn’t be able to fly" was based on the 'old' version of the aerodynamic theory. These early theories suggested that bumblebee wings were too small to create sufficient lift but since then scientists have made huge advances in understanding aerodynamics and how different kinds of airflow can generate lift.

I must confess, I love the bumblebee a lot more after reading this article on the Science Daily! Imagine how such an oblivious creature has had scientists stuck in the lab for decades trying to figure out such an extreme aerodynamic 'difference' that rightfully sets the bumblebee [Bombus terrestris] apart from most other flying animals.

Now... just what have they said about you and who have you been listening to?
66 months ago: Great post! I love the bumblebee theory too! I'm actually kind of saddened that this new info has come to light. I liked thinking that bumblebees have defied all odds and are able to fly because of some anomoly!!

I'll just hit the delete button in my brain and erase what I've just read! Back to thinking bees are AMAZING!!
66 months ago: Thanks howleanne. Bees are still amazing! They still turned science on its head and got the scientists to 'modify' the Law of Aerodynamics to include them... how many other creatures can do that?
Bees remain AMAZING!
54 months ago: Intersecting.

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