Mosquitoes can fly through rainstorms without a problem, but fog is another story.
Scientists from the Georgia Institute of Technology decided to find out why mosquitoes cannot fly in foggy weather.
Researcher Andrew Dickerson explained that when you’re as small as a mosquito, you experience the weather a lot differently.
“From a mosquito’s perspective, a falling raindrop is like us being struck by a small car,” Dickerson said in a press release.
“A fog particle–weighing 20 million times less than a mosquito–is like being struck by a crumb. Thus, fog is to a mosquito as rain is to a human.”
Mosquitoes are small enough to fly between raindrops so only get hit every 20 seconds or so, and the drops don’t hurt them. Then why do the tiny fog particles prevent their flying?
The researchers used high-speed videography and found that mosquitoes’ wings can still function properly in fog, but the tiny structures called halteres cannot.
Halteres are like little knobbed wings that flap alternately with the large wings. They help the mosquito control its flight and stay upright in the air.
When these structures flap, they hit thousands of fog particles per second. The halteres are so tiny that the particles interfere with them.
“Thus the halteres cannot sense their position correctly and malfunction, similarly to how windshield wipers fail to work well when the rain is very heavy or if there is snow on the windshield,” said Dickerson.
“This study shows us that insect flight is similar to human flight in aircraft in that flight is not possible when the insects cannot sense their surroundings.”
The research was presented on Nov. 19 at a meeting of the American Physical Society’s Division of Fluid Dynamics.
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