Brookmans Park scientists uncover mosquitos’ flight secrets

Researchers filmed mosquitos to work out how they fly.

Researchers filmed mosquitos to work out how they fly. - Credit: Archant

Welwyn Hatfield researchers have been probing a mystery that has long baffled scientists - exactly how do mosquitos fly?

Mosquitos beat their wings 800 times a second - far faster than any other insect, but with a very low angular sweep, just 40 degrees, an action that appears to defy conventional aerodynamics.

But now, research involving the Royal Veterinary College in Brookmans Park has discovered that mosquitos generate lift from two unusual techniques: “trailing-edge vortices”, and wing rotation.

Dr Richard Bomphrey, reader of biomechanics at the Hawkshead Lane college, said: “The usual flapping pattern of short, fast sweeps means that mosquitoes cannot rely on the conventional aerodynamic mechanisms that most insects and helicopters use. Instead, we predicted that they must make use of clever tricks as the wings reverse their direction at the end of each half-stroke.”

The research, which also involved Chiba University in Japan and Oxford University, required construction of a miniature film studio, with precisely aligned cameras and powerful lights, to capture the subtle variations in wing action.

The research was published in the leading scientific journal Nature on Thursday.