|A bumblebee in flight. The white circular arrows |
indicate where the leading edge of the wings create
a vortex which produces additional lift.
Bees beat their wings about 200 times per second. Their thorax muscles don’t expand and contract so much as vibrate, like a rubber band. A nerve impulse comes along and plucks the muscle like a guitar string. This vibrates the wing up and down a few times until the next impulse comes along. The bee has its wing roots embedded in a special block of elastic material to help this.
The flight of the bumblebee is quite inefficient in that its wings are not coordinated—left and right wings flap independently and sets the bumblebee apart from most other creatures of flight. Bumblebees have adopted a brute force approach to flight powered by its massive thorax. This approach could have evolved to make bumblebees more maneuverable in the air to transport nectar and pollen back to the hive.