According to a new study, the way ladybugs fold their wings can be useful to provide design upgrades for a lot of things that humans use, such as umbrellas. Japanese scientists have attempted to discover how to copy the movement and technique used by these insects to fly.

The way ladybugs delicately fold their wings is something that aroused the curiosity of Japanese professor, Kazuya Saito, who designs foldable structures. She believed that the natural process behind ladybugs’ wings has a lot of potential for engineering.

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“Compared with other beetles, ladybugs are very good at flying and frequently take off,” said Saito, “I thought their wing transformation systems are excellent and have a large potential for engineering.”

The mechanism that allows ladybugs to fly is not clear

Ladybird beetles are insects with a high mobility since they can explore places walking or flying, according to their need. They have an excellent wing transformation system, having the perfect combination between the deformability required to fold their wings and the strength needed to fly.  However, the mechanisms used by ladybugs to do so is not entirely clear, because ladybugs close their “elytra” – or ladybug’s outer shells – ahead of wing folding, preventing scientists to see the detailed process that takes place under the elytra.

However, scientists believe that such a delicate and optimal wind system cannot be overlooked for it could have a great impact on engineering giving humans the tools to create better things.

Scientists at University of Tokyo’s Institute of Industrial Science have carried out a study on living ladybugs to determine how their wings are folded.  Professor Saito, who creates foldable systems has been interested in other insects too. She and her team had already taken high-speed images of ladybugs moving their wings, but they were not able to figure out all the process.

Therefore, they printed 3D artificial wings, but they were not as transparent as it was needed for them to see through them.

Ladybugs have apparently incompatible but effective properties

Finally, they got to a solution thanks to Saito’s secretary who gave the idea. They created elytra using clear nail art resin, and that way they were able to see how the ladybugs open and close their magnificent wings.

They removed the shells from several living ladybugs, and they replaced them with this glue-on silicone elytra. The study showed that the characteristically shaped veins have an important role in the whole process.

“Hindwings in ladybird beetles are characterized by two seemingly incompatible properties: (i) the wing rigidity with relatively thick veins and (ii) the compactness in stored shapes with complex crease patterns” explains the study which was published The Proceedings of the National Academies of Science.

This means that they have a transformable structure since their veins are rigid enough to allow ladybugs to fly, but at the same time, they are elastic enough to allow these insects to fold their wings.

According to scientists, with this information, they can change the way umbrellas are made, because its design has been practically the same for more than 1000 years. However, an upgraded design for umbrellas hasn’t been presented yet.

Source: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America