Bumblebees Can Totally Fly, and We Know How They Do
When French entomologist Antoine Magnan was writing the introduction to his 1934 book “The Flight of Insects,” he tossed off a little bon mot about how he and his mathematically inclined assistant ran the numbers on the bumblebee and came out with the surprising conclusion that “their flight is impossible.” After discovering that he had ignored several important but obscure aerodynamic principles in his rough calculations he respectfully retracted the suggestion (which was never meant to be anything like a rigorous scientific proof anyway) and removed it from future editions.
This enduring myth has inspired generations of entomologists and aerodynamicists to find new and better explanations for how insects of all kinds can fly, finding out new things about dynamic stall, atmospheric viscosity, and arthropod muscle behavior. Throughout all of this, the humble little bumble continues buzzing clumsily from flower to flower, pausing only to deposit honey, sting the unwary, and periodically pitch breakfast cereals.
Photo Credit: Flickr user bagsgroove