When a mystery insect is careening toward you with what you can only assume is ill intent, your impulse is likely to swat first and think later.
Unless it’s a butterfly or some other culturally beloved insect, you probably don’t spend very much time (if any) marveling at its beauty or pondering its flight mechanics. But Adrian Smith, a research biologist and the head of the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences’ Evolutionary Biology & Behavior Lab, does.
As Nerdist reports, Smith films insects in flight at 6000 frames per second (and other high frame rates) and slows the footage down until they appear to be flying almost 200 times slower than their real-life speed. He then posts the videos to the lab’s YouTube channel, Ant Lab.
The latest features 15 common insects, from praying mantises to alderflies, and reveals some fascinating details about their flight techniques. All the weevils, for example, adopted what Smith called a “tripod takeoff.” They raised their middle legs first, followed by one front leg, and then the flapping of their wings lifted the remaining three legs off the surface.
And three beetle species—the ambrosia beetle, the pleasing fungus beetle, and the carrion beetle—weren’t just transporting themselves: Mites clung to them, happy to hitch a ride to a new location.