# How do bumble bees fly? I heard they defy physics, is that true?

Asked by RandomMrdan (7336 ) February 22nd, 2009

I heard that the size of their wings, and the speed they flap, it should be impossible for them to carry around their body mass. But somehow they still fly, does anyone have some details to share about bumble bees and how their small wings are able to fly them around?

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Weird. I just found this on Google.

gailcalled (49043 )

GOD
God made them that way instead of racking your brain on why just enjoy them for what they are.

Aerodynamic forces and power requirements in forward flight in a bumblebee (Bombus terrestris) were studied using the method of computational fluid dynamics. Actual wing kinematic data of free flight were used in the study (the speed ranges from 0 m/s to 4.5 m/s; advance ratio ranges from 0–0.66). The bumblebee employs the delayed stall mechanism and the fast pitching-up rotation mechanism to produce vertical force and thrust. The leading-edge vortex does not shed in the translatory phase of the half-strokes and is much more concentrated than that of the fruit fly in a previous study. At hovering and low-speed flight, the vertical force is produced by both the half-strokes and is contributed by wing lift; at medium and high speeds, the vertical force is mainly produced during the downstroke and is contributed by both wing lift and wing drag. At all speeds the thrust is mainly produced in the upstroke and is contributed by wing drag. The power requirement at low to medium speeds is not very different from that of hovering and is relatively large at the highest speed (advance ratio 0.66), i.e. the power curve is J-shaped. Except at the highest flight speed, storing energy elastically can save power up to 20%–30%. At the highest speed, because of the large increase of aerodynamic torque and the slight decrease of inertial torque (due to the smaller stroke amplitude and stroke frequency used), the power requirement is dominated by aerodynamic power and the effect of elastic storage of energy on power requirement is limited.

Thanks Zebra. I’ll go with the scientific answer.

@gailcalled I guess I’ll reserve all my easy questions up to google from now on. I thought it would be a cool question to ask here though.

RandomMrdan (7336 )

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, Random, but that question has come up here periodically over the years. I am always mystified at the repetitions, almost word for word, of queries. Is there a giant secret stash of them somewhere?

gailcalled (49043 )

I’ll be sure do do some thorough research for any question I may want to ask in the future.

RandomMrdan (7336 )

La_chica_gomela (12473 )
RandomMrdan (7336 )

hmm i can’t read a page of italics.

LKidKyle1985 (6438 )

haha you can read the question though right?

RandomMrdan (7336 )

Nothing “defies physics”, by definition. Physics is the way the world works. The most anything could do is defy humanity’s understanding of physics.

bees don’t do that either, fwiw

MrItty (17325 )

I think I’ll take both of Evelyn’s answers.

fireside (12208 )

@LKidKyle1985 Try tilting your head to the side, that usually works for me.

As for the question, it has a scientific answer, but that doesn’t take away from the awe of the thing.

Grisson (4592 )

I think bumblebees are cute.

b (1846 )

I heard that they flap their wings really fast.

90s_kid (2158 )

I have been researching bees on the internet for the last four hours at work. When I type ‘do bees like yellow’ into google, it says that there are 2,960,000 results and it will take me a while to look at all of those pages so I doubt I will make it in there today. On one of the pages I have been to it stated that Qantas used to have a yellow kangaroo as their logo but when it was painted on the tail fin it attracted nests of bees which was a safety hazard therfore the logo was changed to red in the mid fifties. This would seem to support the argument that bees are indeed attracted to yellow and contradicts what you have told me. According to one page though, bees are technically unable to fly due to their wings being too small for their body weight but I have seen them do it so this can’t be true. Somebody should check the internet and make sure everything on there is correct. Regardless, I do not think having to dodge bees in addition to the already present dangers of learning to ride a motorbike for the first time would be very safe. Once when I was a passenger in a yellow taxi, a bee flew in and I screamed causing the driver to swerve and hit a wheelie bin. I will continue my research and confirm that this would not be a factor before I arrange the test ride.

Courtesy of Bees Like Yellow

girlofscience (7376 )

Bumblebees don’t know they can’t fly, so they just keep flying.

Like I know not to ask questions on the weekend. The same 10 questions will remain on the board most of the weekend. Which tells me that very few people come on then.—

Pandora (21309 )

@Pandora: Point taken. Note, however, that I did write that answer 16 months ago. But this question turns out to be an urban myth, now and then. It is the “I heard they defy physics” that make this an duplicate.

“How do bumble bees fly?” is a more legitimate question. That particular query, however, leaves no room for creativity or imagination. They are designed to fly, just as birds are. This particular question can be easily googled.

gailcalled (49043 )

There is only ONE logical answer! They are able to fly because God designed them with the ability to fly! If it is hard for us to understand the way things work then the ONLY logical explanation I can offer is that God designed it that way! After all God created everything!

jaycnp (1 )

I personally don’t know of very much of anything that literally “Defies physics.” That’s redonkulous in and of itself. Not even dark matter does that, and they don’t even really know what it is yet.

and Bee’s fly… because they have wings and because they have to pollinate FLOWERS.

What are they supposed to do? Take ladders?

Their wings are inporportionate to their cute fat little bodies so it looks like they shouldn’t be able to fly. But its’ actually a myth. Their ability to fly follows the same principals of aerodynamics as a humming bird.

GabrielsLamb (6131 )
Response moderated (Writing Standards)

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