News Release 

Honeybees' hydrofoiling locomotion

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

A study suggests that honeybees can use their wings as hydrofoils to maneuver on the surface of water. When honeybees fall on the surface of water, their wetted wings lose aerodynamic ability. Nevertheless, the bees can move forward by beating their wings. Chris Roh and Morteza Gharib report that such motion results from the wings acting as hydrofoils. Imaging of the waves and flow patterns generated by live honeybees on water indicated net backward transfer of momentum to the water, which is thought to impart equal forward momentum to the bee. The authors estimated that the magnitude of momentum imparted to the water, and hence to the bee, was sufficient to overcome hydrodynamic drag and propel the bee forward. Measurements of fluid flow under a mechanical honeybee wing model revealed a net horizontal momentum imparted to the water by the wing motion, and hence a net horizontal thrust, as well as periodic acceleration and deceleration of water that could provide additional forward motion via recoil. The results highlight the versatility of honeybees' flapping wing systems, which can generate propulsion in fluids of widely differing densities. According to the authors, the hydrofoiling mechanism may increase honeybees' chances of survival during water foraging, and the findings could inspire the design of aerial-aquatic hybrid vehicles that use the same mechanism.

Article #19-08857: "Honeybees use their wings for water surface locomotion," by Chris Roh and Morteza Gharib.

MEDIA CONTACT: Morteza Gharib, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA; tel: 626-395-4453; e-mail:


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