How butterflies fly
At least six different flight techniques used to fly through butterflies.

The splendid vanessa, with an erratic and slow flight, turned out to be an exceptional pilot.
The splendid vanessa, with an erratic and slow flight, turned out to be an exceptional pilot.

Insects use different flying techniques than those of other flying animals. But what these techniques were, it was not easy to know. An experiment carried out by two British researchers at the University of Oxford, discovered that the vanessa atalanta (Vanessa atalanta), one of the most showy and common butterflies of our countryside, uses different flight techniques. By training a few butterflies to collect nectar from flowers placed at the bottom of a wind tunnel, the researchers filmed a butterfly flying in a cloud of smoke with a high-speed camera. The wings of the butterflies, it has been discovered, do not move with a simple movement of up and down, but rotate continuously and modify the position of the so-called leading edge, ie the point where the wing "enters" the air. Moreover (as it had been discovered for some time) at the top of the beat the butterflies' wings touch and suddenly separate, with a mechanism called clap and flip, which generates a further lift.

Games and miniaerei. Another technique that the butterfly uses is to generate a vortex with the front wings (the butterflies in fact have four wings) and use it to carry the rear ones upwards. In total these butterflies use at least six different flight techniques, which change very naturally according to the conditions. Although the technique used by the British is not perfect, it has made it possible to understand in part how butterflies, with a brain of 3000 neurons, fly better than a plane equipped with thousands of dollars of software. The research could lead to better controls for aircraft flight, to the creation of very small "contraptions" that fly like butterflies and also to the production of tiny, perfect flight toy planes.

(News updated December 12, 2002)