Scientists Reveal Never Before Seen Approach To Mosquito Flight


There is no denying that going outdoors or in a campsite, a high-pitched sound signifies that mosquitoes are nearby. It is, therefore, unlikely not to end up with some itchy spot during the evening.

Of all insects, mosquitoes are one of smallest and deadliest, and one that has a distinctive flight. Richard Bomfrey, a biomechanic at the Royal Veterinary Clinic, as well as an interdisciplinary team of UK and Japanese scientists, revealed some remarkable secrets how the blood-sucking insect achieve its flight by recording it in minute detail.

Despite being one of the smallest flying insects,, mosquitoes are carriers of deadly diseases such as malaria, yellow fever and Zika virus. Unlike the low hum buzz of a bumblebee, the mosquito's high-pitched whine is attributed to irritation and illnesses, Wired reported. Bomfrey's study may now attribute the mosquito's flight to a new attribute as one of the most incredible feats of aerodynamics.

The researchers have published their study in Nature, detailing they have figured out what entails the flight of a mosquito. Two new previously unknown mechanisms have been identified in mosquitoes that is said to generate lift that has never been seen before, according to Ars Technica.

Data gathering and analysis

Data was gathered by setting up a series of eight high-speed cameras that is aimed to capture every moment of a mosquito's wing flap from various angles. The data collected is then analyzed to create a digital model of the insect's wing as it went through one full stroke. The result was then used to solve fluid dynamic equations around the wings, and tracking movements of air currents as the wing fan through it.

The initial confirmation is that the mosquito's wings beat at over 700Hz, accounting for the high -pitched sound we hear when a mosquito is nearby, much higher than other insects. Another distinctive feature is that its wings beat is less than 40 degrees, reportedly half the smallest amplitude measured for any hovering animal.

Three mechanisms of mosquito flight

The digital models presented three distinct mechanisms in mosquito flight, the first being a leading edge vortex that is common in other insects. A downward sweep of the wing creates a vortex, which loops back over the wing.

The second mechanism is observed when the insect flaps its wing upwards; it runs through the trailing edge vortex created by the downward stroke. The vortex then re-attaches itself to the wing giving the insect added lift.

The third mechanism happens when the wing reaches the top of its upwards stroke. Upon starting its downward stroke, the wing rotates a bit. As it beats downward, the tip of its wing is still being drawn upwards; the result is that some part of the insect's wing is rotating for a large portion of the full wing beat. Due to its short and fast wing beat, it generates lift in a big fraction of the overall wing beat.

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