June 5, 2009 | David F. Coppedge

Bees’ Knees Bridle the Breeze

Bees stabilize their flight in windy conditions by extending their hind legs.  Even though this costs 30% more energy and produces more drag, it provides stabilization against turbulence by increasing their moment of inertia (i.e., their resistance to being flipped over).
    A team of scientists videotaped the insects flying when blasted by powerful bursts of air, Science Daily reported.  “In every case, the bees displayed a side-to-side rolling motion at high flight speeds, negotiating the turbulence by extending their rear legs while in flight.”
    They only studied ten species of bees.  The team thinks this may be a universal skill among other members of their class Hymenoptera (bees, wasps, ants, and sawflies), but are not sure.  There was no mention of evolution in the article, except that one of the scientists is a Harvard evolutionary biologist who said, “we know remarkably little about how animals navigate windy conditions and unpredictable airflows.”

Who taught these bees about physics and aerodynamics?   Did they learn it in Bee’s Knees Flight School?  Did a lucky one figure it out and share the idea with its fellow aces (Lamarckism)?  Did a lucky mutation arise, after trillions of bees fell dead from gusts of wind (neo-Darwinism)?  Did the right engineering solution just emerge (naive Darwinism)?  Those ideas don’t fly, even in hot air.

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