Innovation in the wings
Ladybirds could hold the key to building an umbrella that does not blow inside out on a windy day, scientists believe.
The beetle — also known as a ladybug — manages to pack its wings away in complex origamilike 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 ladybird 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.
Ladybirds are highly mobile insects that can switch between walking and flying with ease and speed because they can quickly deploy and collapse their wings.