A team of researchers took a closer look at how ladybugs fold their wings with some help from nail art and high-speed cameras. The results of their observations could nonetheless have interesting consequences in various design areas.
A study on the matter became available last week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The research team behind the study was intrigued by the ladybugs’ flying abilities.
They were surprised that such beetles have wings strong enough to carry them through the air. Also, they were amazed that these wings could quickly collapse and be folded away in cases that revealed to be much smaller than them.
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High-speed cameras were used to film ladybugs tucking away their wings, which revealed a quite complicated and complex process. This footage immediately showed that the flight helpers are tucked into black-spotted wing cases. But these are smaller than the wings themselves, so the ladybug has to fold them to fit.
But this method wasn’t immediately visible. As the footage show, the first folding step is closing the wing cases, so the process itself is hidden from sight. Hence the need for nail art.
The research team used a UV-cured resin type, commonly used for nail art, to build transparent wing cases. Then, they replaced the red and black ones with the new clear ones, called an elytron. These allowed them to fully watch the tuck and fold process.
“I wasn’t sure if the ladybug could fold its wings with an artificial elytron made of nail-art resin. So I was surprised when I found out it could,” said Kazuya Saito.
He is the study’s lead author and a professor part of the University of Tokyo. Then, the team once again employed the high-speed cameras to capture the process. They also used CT scans of both folded and unfolded wings to better understand its patterns.
The way ladybugs fold their wings is reportedly akin to origami. Still, the process is complicated, “quite fascinating and novel”. The team considers that it could bring significant advantages to studies and designs in mechanics, mechanical engineering, robotics, and aerospace. Maybe even for umbrellas, fans, and other more immediately used products.
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