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J Insect Physiol. 2014 Jun;65:27-36. doi: 10.1016/j.jinsphys.2014.04.003. Epub 2014 Apr 21.

The effects of artificial wing wear on the flight capacity of the honey bee Apis mellifera.

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School of Life Sciences, University of Las Vegas, Nevada, Las Vegas, NV, USA. Electronic address:
School of Life Sciences, University of Las Vegas, Nevada, Las Vegas, NV, USA.


The wings of bees and other insects accumulate permanent wear, which increases the rate of mortality and impacts foraging behavior, presumably due to effects on flight performance. In this study, we investigated how experimental wing wear affects flight performance in honey bees. Variable density gases and high-speed videography were used to determine the maximum hovering flight capacity and wing kinematics of bees from three treatment groups: no wing wear, symmetric and asymmetric wing wear. Wing wear was simulated by clipping the distal-trailing edge of one or both of the wings. Across all bees from treatment groups combined, wingbeat frequency was inversely related to wing area. During hovering in air, bees with symmetric and asymmetric wing wear responded kinematically so as to produce wingtip velocities similar to those bees with no wing wear. However, maximal hovering flight capacity (revealed during flight in hypodense gases) decreased in direct proportion to wing area and inversely to wing asymmetry. Bees with reduced wing area and high asymmetry produced lower maximum wingtip velocity than bees with intact or symmetric wings, which caused a greater impairment in maximal flight capacity. These results demonstrate that the magnitude and type of wing wear affects maximal aerodynamic power production and, likely, the control of hovering flight. Wing wear reduces aerodynamic reserve capacity and, subsequently, the capacity for flight behaviors such as load carriage, maneuverability, and evading predators.


Honey bees; Hovering performance; Insect flight; Kinematics; Wing wear

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