A team of scientists from the California Institute of Technology has discovered how bees can surf through the water to move and be able to return to land when they are trapped.
It all started when the engineerChris roh He was walking by the California Institute of Technology in the US There he saw abeetrapped in the water, she stood up and watched her sail to escape. This happened at noon, when the sun cast the shadows of the insect and the waves it was making with its wings on the bottom of the pond.
He noticed that the bee was moving in a particular way to create wide waves and push itself to the edge with them. "I was very excited to see this behavior, so I took the bee to the lab to study it closely," he explains.
There, Roh and her colleagues reenacted the event: they put water in a saucepan, let it sit completely still, and then put a total of 33 bees one at a time. As each insect flapped its wings in the water, the same shadows were created at the bottom of the container, and they saw that the bee used thesewavesto push himself little by little to the edge and be able to escape.
On hot days,hivesThey need water to cool down, so when the temperature rises, the worker bees go out to collect water from a pond and transport it. Sometimes, however, they fall off and their wings stick to the water, preventing them from flying. If they cannot break free, they die.
The researchers realized that thisadherenceIt allows the bee to drag water with its wings, creating waves behind it that propel it forward. "With thismovement, the insect is able to advance. Surf to safety, ”says Mory Gharib, Roh's partner and researcher at the same institute.
After a few minutes of experiment, they carefully removed each of them to allow them to recover from their swimming efforts since, although bees can last a long time flying, swimming is much more exhausting for them and they could only stay for 10 minutes, according to their estimates. The study has been published in the journalPNAS.
The blueprint for creating a future robot
The video shows theasymmetryWhat bees create to save their lives: Instead of flapping up and down in the water, the bee's wings bend, as if we were turning our palms inward, to push the water back.
In addition, the movement of the wings in the water is slower than usual, with an amplitude also smaller than when they flap them to fly. During the whole process, the upper side of the wing stays dry.
Roh and Gharib, who work at the Center for Autonomous Systems and Technologies (CAST) at the California Institute of Technology, have already begun applying their findings to their research, developing a smallrobotIt uses a similar motion to navigate the surface of the water. Although labor intensive, this activity could one day be used to generate robots capable of both flying and swimming.
Chris Roh and Mory Gharib. "Honeybees use their wings for water surface locomotion." November 18, 2019.PNAS