Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

How its Possible for Bumblebees to fly?

  1. Aug 5, 2012 #1
    As per Aerodynamics theory, Bumblebees cant fly, prove it how can they fly,
    Their wing to body weight ratio is very critical to prove,
    And we have not succeeded to do aircraft with flapping wings.
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 5, 2012 #2

    D H

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    Nonsense. This is an old urban myth that just won't die.
  4. Aug 5, 2012 #3


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    The original concept didn't take wingtip vortices into account. Bees' wings don't just flap; they twist.
  5. Aug 5, 2012 #4


    User Avatar

    The version I heard is that the myth originated when someone didn't take into account the very low reynolds numbers at which bumblebees fly. The aerodynamic principles change quite a bit in this flow regime - viscosity becomes more important, while having a nice, streamlined shape becomes a whole lot less important (especially for the lifting surfaces, such as the wings).
  6. Aug 5, 2012 #5


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    I was unaware of that one, but it seems logical. There is no doubt, though, that the vortices are a major contributor. If you watch extreme slow-motion movies of the wings, you'll see that there is a tremendous "whiplash" imparted by the outer extremity when it snaps around. (The closest analogy that I can think of is the wrist action of a person throwing something.)
  7. Aug 5, 2012 #6


    User Avatar
    Homework Helper

    There have been several versions of how this misconception came to be. Wiki article mentions a few possibilities:


    The other issue is the amount of energy consumed by bumblebees or hummingbirds during flight, but they rely on rubber band like muscles (and/or flexible membranes for some insects) that vibrate elastically, reducing the energy required to maintain flight.

    There are motor powered models that fly. Human powered models haven't done very well. Wiki article:

  8. Aug 5, 2012 #7


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    May favortite one, because it bends the wings like a bird, not just flaps them:


    Not self starting, but sustained flight for a while:


    I'm not sure if they were limited by the stamina or just by the available space to land safely. Human powered propeller planes flew tens of kilometers.
    Last edited: Aug 5, 2012
  9. Aug 5, 2012 #8


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Ask the bees. They do not follow our preconceptions.
  10. Aug 5, 2012 #9


    User Avatar
    Gold Member


    And I'd love to hear their version of "the birds and the bees". (It's always been my contention that the bees would be food in that relationship, but maybe that's why I don't have children.)
  11. Aug 6, 2012 #10
    Man Got the concept of Flying from Birds, Not by Asking Bro...
  12. Aug 6, 2012 #11


    User Avatar

    Oh, certainly. Vortices are crucial to bumblebee flight - the wings undergo a stall on every wingbeat which causes the shedding of a fairly sizeable vortex. The very low reynolds number causes this to affect substantially more air than you would otherwise expect given the wing size as well, so the combination of low reynolds number and vortex formation allows flight with a surprisingly high wing loading (when compared to the wing loading of objects at scales we are more used to dealing with).
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Similar Discussions: How its Possible for Bumblebees to fly?
  1. How can birds fly? (Replies: 3)

  2. How is this possible? (Replies: 3)

  3. How does an airplane fly? (Replies: 127)

  4. How Do Bees Fly? (Replies: 6)