Page last updated at 10:53 GMT, Monday, 11 May 2009 11:53 UK

Secret of bumblebee flight found


Video courtesy of Oxford University's Department of Zoology

Bumblebees can fly thanks to brute force rather than good aerodynamics, an Oxford University study has found.

Scientists discovered the insects are inefficient flyers which rely on big muscles and lots of energy rich nectar.

They trained the bees to fly down a wind tunnel and studied the way their wings disturbed streams of smoke.

The university's Professor Adrian Thomas said: "A bumblebee is a tanker-truck. Its job is to transport nectar and pollen back to the hive."

He added: "Efficiency is unlikely to be important for that way of life."

The researchers from the university's Department of Zoology recorded the wind tunnel flights with a high speed camera taking pictures at 2,000 frames per second.

They said a myth that bumblebees should not be able to fly was based on calculations using an outdated theory of aerodynamics, but since then understanding of aerodynamics had made huge advances.

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