Wild Life

Lens of Time: Bumper Bees

See how scientists use high-speed videography to investigate—and learn from—the clumsy flight of the bumblebee.

A bumblebee’s survival depends on its ability to fly with efficiency and purpose through an obstacle course strewn with wind-blown moving targets. So you might assume that bees are precision aerialists. But if you watch them closely, you’ll see that bees are constantly bumping into things—and somehow they’re able to soldier on, unfazed. Now, scientists Stacey Combes and Andrew Mountcastle are using high-speed video to pull back the veil on bumblebee flight dynamics and wing structure. By viewing these collisions with specialized cameras, the team has discovered a hidden design feature that allows clumsy bees to thrive, despite the bumpy ride.

Spine Films

Spine Films is a San Francisco Bay Area production company specializing in international science, nature, environment, and arts media. They search for stories that provide opportunities to find the magical in the mundane, and that celebrate the beautiful intricacy of our Universe. You can find their films and stories on PBS, Discovery Networks, National Geographic and on websites and broadcast stations around the world.

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