How Ladybugs Fly


Sometimes, a video comes along that answers a question I didn't know I had: How does a ladybug fly if it doesn't have visible wings? It doesn't just flap its shell around. Being a lifelong Science Dummy, I guess I never thought about that, though clearly it's an issue for all beetles.

Wikipedia to the rescue! The outer shell is a hardened forewing called an elytron (the plural form is "elytra"). Before the ladybug takes flight, those elytra open up, gull-wing-style, revealing the diaphanous wings underneath. Those wings unfurl dramatically, then flap in order to support flight. Here's a diagram from Wikimedia Commons showing the diagram (in which you can barely see the wing, but it's there):

And here's a ladybug taking flight, in slow motion. Neat, right?

Here's another view of the process, though the video is grainy:

About the Spots vs. Age Thing

While we're at it, the spots on the elytra are not related to age—they're specific to the species, and don't change as the ladybugs get older. Sorry to ruin everyone's childhoods again.

(Via The Kid Should See This.)