How do butterflies manage to fly in the wind? © Getty Images

How do butterflies manage to fly in the wind?

In the words of Bob Dylan, the answer my friend is blowin’ in the wind…

Asked by: Brian McHale, London

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Scientists have studied this by tethering individual insects in wind tunnels and training them to fly towards flowers, while filming them in slow motion. They have found that the lightweight insects use a range of flying styles to combat the challenges of staying airborne on windy days. They might clap their wings behind their backs to push themselves forward or ‘waggle’ by twisting their flapping wings, therefore creating miniature whirlwinds that roll off the wing and lift it up. Good posture is important, as is warming up the flight muscles before flight. But windy days can be useful. With help of tailwinds, migrating butterflies can travel at 100km/h at an altitude of several hundred metres!


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