Scientists from the Australian National University have created a video that can explain how wasps learn to fly and how they can recognize places, from the point of view of the little insects. It appears that they can even observe ground features located near their nests in order to fly back home.

Jochen Zeil of the Australian National University in Canberra has described wasps as wonderful, autonomous, flexible and robust. He explained that it took more than ten years to researchers to understand how wasps can know places and how they can even shuttle back and forth between them.

“I was especially surprised by how long it took us to find the right way of looking at what the wasps were doing,” he says. “It took us over 10 years!”

When ground-nesting wasps leave their nests each day, they turn back toward home before flying along a series of ever-increasing arcs. While the insects gain height and distance, their attention remains focused on the nest. image:

It is recognized that when wasps leave their nests, they continuously make loops around the area close to it. To conclude that wasps follow precise flying patterns, the team of researchers had to record the wasp’s head orientation with high-speed stereo cameras. Then, they constructed 3D models of the wasp’s environment to analyze their points of view by simulating homing flights of the insects, said Eurekalert! 0n Thursday.

Results would appear to show that wasps could identify specific items that can guide them to home. When they observe those items, they decide to begin a new arc or moving left or right, depending on the location of the nest. Moreover, they are able to recognize ground features that can guide them to their nest.

Understanding flying patterns of wasps is fundamental to ecological neuroscience, in order to create new technologies to preserve animal life. According to Zeil, the team is dedicated to exploring information processing under natural conditions, wrote Eurekalert! in a special report.

Researchers will continue to investigate homing patterns of insects such as bees and ants. Also, they want to examine how navigational abilities are developed in insects through their lifetime. The study was published in the Cell Press journal Current Biology.

Zeil remarked that homing abilities make wasps very intelligent. “It will be interesting to implement the learning and homing rules we found into flying robots to test the validity and limits of our findings. We want to understand what trick the insects are using to acquire the competence of homing.” He said, according to EurekaAlert!

Source: EurekaAlert!