Biomimicry in action: Ladybugs

Biomimicry in action: Ladybugs
May 31, 2017 Christina Mullin

Their wings are flexible enough tofold intricately, yet strong enough to fly…

With the help of high-speed cameras, CT scanners and some nail-art supplies, scientists in Japan have managed to catch a glimpse of the elaborate way that ladybugs fold their wings to tuck them away.

The study, published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, explored how ladybugs can have wings strong enough to fly with, but quickly collapsible so they can be tucked out of the way.

The wings, after all, are much larger than the black-spotted wing cases they fold down to fit inside — as is immediately obvious easy to see if you just watch a video of the wings unfolding.

But the researchers at the University of Tokyo explain that no one knew how the ladybugs put the wings away, since they actually shut the wing cases first — then pull the wings inside. The interesting action is tucked out of sight.

So they replaced those distinctive red and black cases with transparent ones — built out of a kind of UV-cured resin that’s often used in nail art, according to a press release from the university. The artificial wing case, called an elytron, allowed the researchers to watch how the wing folded.

 

“The ladybugs’ technique for achieving complex folding is quite fascinating and novel, particularly for researchers in the fields of robotics, mechanics, aerospace and mechanical engineering,” Saito said, according to the university’s press release.

In the study, the scientists suggest some immediate applications for the research — including aircraft wings, space technology like folding antennas and solar arrays, and far more prosaic items like umbrellas and fans.

Read the whole fascinating piece at http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/05/20/529148056/scientists-sneak-a-peek-at-how-ladybugs-fold-their-wings