Although we see them do it, bumblebees are not very good at using their wings to hover in one general area. When hovering, bees find it difficult to maintain their stability. Instead, as it turns out, bees are far more speedy and accurate fliers when they are flying at their top speeds. As you could guess, bees are more neutral when flying at slower speeds. Slower flight bees tend to demonstrate decent directional abilities, but are not as stable in their flight trajectory as they are when they are traveling at top speeds. However, bees that travel at slower speeds are not as unstable in their movements as the bees that can be spotted hovering around flowers.
Researchers believe that bees have a difficult time maintaining their balance when hovering because the flapping of their wings creates a sideways wind that pushes them in different directions, causing a complete loss of balance. However, it has been noted that when bees travel at greater speeds, their wings bend towards the end of their bodies. With the wings of the bee flattened by wind, the bee’s can now travel in straight lines, with more control, and with a far less erratic flying style. Scientists are hoping to build a series of next generation flying machines based on the biomechanics of the bumblebee anatomy.
Why would bees be evolutionary saddled with wings that create wind resistance? Why would bees have wing shapes that are not well adapted to the natural hovering behaviors?