Landing is an important but understudied behavior that flying animals must perform constantly. In still air, insects decelerate smoothly prior to landing by employing the relatively simple strategy of maintaining a constant rate of image expansion during their approach. However, it is unclear whether insects employ this strategy when faced with challenging flight environments. Here, we tested the effects of wind on bumblebees (Bombus impatiens) landing on flowers. We find that bees' approach paths to flowers shift from multidirectional in still air to unidirectional in wind, regardless of flower orientation. In addition, bees landing in a 3.5 m s−1 headwind do not decelerate smoothly, but rather maintain a high flight speed until contact, resulting in higher peak decelerations upon impact. These findings suggest that wind has a strong influence on insect landing behavior and performance, with important implications for the design of micro aerial vehicles and the ecomechanics of insect flight.
The authors declare no competing or financial interests.
Specimen preparation and data collection were performed by J.J.C.; J.D.C. performed statistical analysis. All authors contributed equally to the conception and design of the experiments, and interpretation of results being published. J.J.C. and J.D.C. contributed equally to the writing of the paper.
This research was supported by the Robert K. Enders Field Biology Award of Swarthmore College to J.J.C., a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship to J.D.C., and National Science Foundation grants CCF-0926158 and IOS-1253677 to S.A.C.
Kinematic data and example tracking scripts are available at zenodo.org (http://www.zenodo.org/record/60234#.V7Mv4pMrKt8).
Supplementary information available online at http://jeb.biologists.org/lookup/doi/10.1242/jeb.137976.supplemental
- Received January 25, 2016.
- Accepted July 10, 2016.
- © 2016. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd