Lightweight insects can ride water droplets, as long as they separate in time
Courtesy Tim Nowack, Andrew Dickerson and David Hu/Georgia Tech
A raindrop hitting a mosquito in flight is like a midair collision between a human and a bus. Except that the mosquito survives.
New experiments show how the insect’s light weight works in its favor, says engineer David Hu of the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. In essence, the (relatively) huge, fast drop doesn’t transfer much of its momentum to a little wisp of an insect. Instead the falling droplet sweeps the insect along on the downward plunge. As Hu puts it, the mosquito “just rides the drop.”
The trick is breaking away from that drop before it and the insect splash into the ground. Mosquitoes that separate themselves in time easily survive a raindrop strike, Hu and his colleagues report online June 4 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Such studies help reveal how animals evolved to take advantage of flight, says biologist Tyson Hedrick of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Mosquito