Bumblebees enter ‘economic mode’ when carrying heavier cargo, study finds

According tomedia reports, bumblebees are tasked with regularly transporting nectar of their own weight, and they need to use their energy wisely when traveling to and from the hive. To better understand the performance of these miniature power lifts, scientists at the University of California, Davis, observed the animals on high-speed cameras during their flight and found that bumblebees could enter an “economic model” when carrying particularly heavy cargo.

Bumblebees enter 'economic mode' when carrying heavier cargo, study finds

Study author Susan Gagliardi said bumblebees can carry weights of 60 percent, 70 or 80 percent of their own weight in the air, “and we’re curious about how they do it and how much effort it takes to get food and supplies back to the hive.” “

To do this, Gagliar and his colleagues conducted an experiment to measure the energy consumption of bumblebees during flight. Using high-speed cameras, the team found that bees adjust their way of flight in several ways under heavy loads. Their response is to increase the frequency and strike amplitude of the flap, which is the distance the wings are flapping, in order to produce more lift and handle the extra weight.

But what scientists didn’t expect was a slightly different way of flying, which allowed them to fly with less energy in a load-bearing state. It’s unclear exactly how bumblebees actually achieve this “economic model” of flight, and researchers suspect it may involve different ways of twisting wings between flights.

Study co-author Stacey Combes points out that the larger the bumblebee’s load, the more economical it is to fly, but this makes no sense in terms of energy.

What the researchers know is that bumblebees are selective about when they enter this energy-saving mode: when they rest well or carry something lighter, they increase the frequency of flapping their wings, which may be to improve performance, such as increased stability, and when they are burdened with a heavier load, they enter this mysterious economic pattern. This seems to be able to carry the extra weight by a small increase or even by the frequency of flapping wings.