The Flight of the Bees

Good morning EUROAVIAns,
in today’s Fact Friday we talk about one of the most amazing animal phenomena from a mathematical point of view: the flight of bees.

The physics behind the way bees fly has always been a mystery and a subject of different studies. Until 1990, scientists thought that their wings worked in a similar way to planes’ wings, generating lift through the difference in dynamical pressure between the top and bottom surfaces.

It was only in 1996 that the existence of LEVs (Leading edge vortices), small tornado-like vortices that are generated at the tip of the wings that create a depression on the back of the wing, was discovered. However, a study of the University of Manchester proved that such vortices could not provide the required lift alone; there was something our little buzzy friends were still hiding.

Eventually, the LEVs were found to be the real Deus ex machina behind their flight method, but in a surprisingly different way to what everyone expected. Indeed, it was found that LEVs allow the bee to reach a higher angle of attack without stall occurring. LEVs are hence fundamental to our precious little friends to fly and, actually, affect many other animals like flies and hummingbirds.