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Reason and Revelation Volume 26 #2

Bee Flight Physics

In 1934, using mathematical calculations, French entomologist August Magnan concluded that bee flight was aerodynamically impossible. The haphazard flapping of their wings simply should not enable bees to fly. The mystery that has perplexed scientists ever since (due to inadequate understanding of aerodynamic theory) is now believed to have been clarified. Using high-speed digital cameras and a giant robotic model of a bee wing, bioengineers at the California Institute of Technology and the University of Nevada at Las Vegas have been studying honeybee flight in an effort to determine how bees fly (Alt­shuler, et al., 2005). They discovered that bees operate with the same basic aerodynamic principles that facilitate flight capability in other flying creatures, including velocity, wing stroke amplitude, stroke reversals, wingbeat frequency, and wing length. They simply utilize these principles in different proportions and combinations.

Why? Why would bees operate on altered aerodynamic principles? The scientists do not know. They speculate that since bees consume floral nectar, they possess “excess power available for ecologically useful but aerodynamically expensive behaviors” (102[50]:18218). Observe that “ecologically useful” implies that bee flight is specifically suited to bee activity—which is another way to say that a bee is strategically and deliberately designed to fulfill its function efficiently. The scientists compare honeybees to hummingbirds “that are able to forage for high-energy nectar rewards by using more energetically demanding flight” (102[50]:18218, emp. added). In other words, the use of adjusted aerodynamic principles is not due to alleged inherited evolutionary inefficiency; rather, it is the result of deliberate design calculated to achieve different objectives and accommodate different purposes. Hummingbirds do not fly like sparrows—because they are not sparrows! And bees do not fly like mosquitoes—because they are not mosquitoes! Each flying creature’s flight capabilities are specifically suited to accommodate its created purpose and function.

Do bees have any specific needs in order to accomplish their peculiar functions? Yes, and the scientists, themselves, offer the following: “Honeybees and other hymenopterans [the order of insects that includes bees, wasps, and ants—DM] need to carry much heavier loads that may actually exceed body mass in numerous contexts, including undertaking, prey transport, and foraging for nectar or pollen” (102[50]:18218). Again, in other words, bee flight is specifically designed to accommodate the tasks that bees perform. But design demands a designer! Design requires an intelligence that exceeds the blind, mechanistic forces of nature.

Here is the conclusion set forth by the researchers:

In conclusion, our analysis of honeybee aerodynamics reveals how the rapid low-amplitude wing motion of bees is sufficient to maintain the weight of the animal. [We knew that—DM.] Furthermore, honeybees exhibit considerable ability to generate excess aerodynamic power, which they accomplish by raising stroke amplitude while maintaining constant frequency. This ability may be related to requirements of social insects to carry loads related to foraging, undertaking, and brood transport (102[50]:18218, emp. added).

Notice: the bee deliberately generates extra aerodynamic power. Why? The scientists speculate that it is due to the bee’s need to carry out its social duties—the requirements it possesses due to its place in the insect social order. My friend, such a circumstance has intelligent design written all over it. Such complexity, such design, such planning, and such purpose could not have happened without a Mind. That Mind is none other than the God of the Bible:

Lift up your eyes on high, and see who has created these things, Who brings out their host by number; He calls them all by name, by the greatness of His might and the strength of His power.... For thus says the Lord, Who created the heavens, Who is God, Who formed the earth and made it, Who has established it, Who did not create it in vain, Who formed it to be inhabited: “I am the Lord, and there is no other” (Isaiah 40:26; 45:18).

You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created (Revelation 4:11).

REFERENCE

Altshuler, Douglas L., William B. Dickson, Jason T. Vance, Stephen P. Roberts, and Michael H. Dickinson (2005), “Short-Amplitude High-Frequency Wing Strokes Determine the Aerodynamics of Honeybee Flight,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 102[50]:18213-18218, December 13.



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