Un­der­stand­ing la­dy­bug wings could im­prove um­brel­las

The Province - - LIVE IT! - SARAH KNAP­TON

La­dy­bugs could hold the key to build­ing an um­brella that does not blow in­side out on a windy day, sci­en­tists be­lieve.

The bee­tle man­ages to pack its wings away in com­plex origami-like folds be­neath its cara­pace, be­fore open­ing them into a fixed, strong mem­brane in flight.

Un­til now, the fold­ing mech­a­nism has re­mained a mys­tery be­cause no­body could see be­neath the outer spotty forewings, known as ely­tra.

But sci­en­tists in Japan cre­ated a see-through forewing out of trans­par­ent resin and trans­planted it onto a la­dy­bug to pro­vide a lit­eral win­dow into the process, us­ing high-speed cam­eras and CT scans to ob­serve.

They say it will help ex­plain how the elas­tic wings can main­tain their strength and rigid­ity in flight, a find­ing that could im­prove the de­sign of um­brel­las, satel­lites and mi­cro­scopic med­i­cal in­stru­ments.

“I be­lieve that bee­tle wing-fold­ing has the po­ten­tial to change the um­brella de­sign that has been ba­si­cally un­changed for more than 1,000 years,” said as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor Kazuya Saito of the Univer­sity of Tokyo’s In­sti­tute of In­dus­trial Science.

La­dy­bugs are highly mo­bile in­sects that can switch be­tween walk­ing and fly­ing with ease and speed be­cause they can quickly de­ploy and col­lapse their wings.

— GETTY IMAGES FILES

Sci­en­tists in Japan are try­ing to ex­plain how la­dy­bug wings can main­tain their strength and rigid­ity in flight, which could also im­prove the de­sign of satel­lites and med­i­cal in­stru­ments.

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