VIDEO: The clumsy flight of the bumblebee

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See how scientists use high-speed videography to investigate and learn from the clumsy flight of the bumblebee. (California Academy of Sciences)

A bumblebee's survival depends on its ability to fly with efficiency and purpose through an obstacle course strewn with wind-blown moving targets. So you might assume that bees are precision aerialists. But if you watch them closely, you'll see that bees are constantly bumping into things-and somehow they're able to soldier on, unfazed.

Now, scientists Stacey Combes and Andrew Mountcastle are using high-speed video to pull back the veil on bumblebee flight dynamics and wing structure. By viewing these collisions with specialized cameras, the team has discovered a hidden design feature that allows clumsy bees to thrive, despite the bumpy ride.

This story was originally published in bioGraphic, a multimedia magazine powered by the California Academy of Sciences.

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