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High Flying Bugs

July 21st, 2016

Have you ever wondered what altitude insects reach when flying in the sky? Although there is much to be learned about insect physiology and how it handles high altitudes, scientists have developed a few techniques that help determine the height that certain insects can reach.

By putting bumblebees into a chamber that mimics high altitudes researchers found that bumblebees can reach altitudes as high a mount everest, which is almost 30,000 feet. This is an impressive height when you consider that the highest flying bird reaches 37,000 feet. Flies and butterflies can even reach heights of just under 20,000 feet.

However, higher altitudes means thinner air, and that means that flying insects will have to flap their wings much faster since the small amount of molecules in the air make it harder for wings to take advantage of lift. But the bumblebees will change the way they flap their wings to adapt to the change in oxygen. By studying the way insects fly at high altitudes we can learn more about engineering mechanisms of human flight.

Do you think that learning about how insects fly at extremely high altitudes could help humans develop more sophisticated airborne vehicles?

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