The world is full of beauty and wonder, providing us with so many awe inspiring things that it can last us for a lifetime. But at the same time it’s filled with unimaginable horrors that would send you running at their mere sight. Some of these horrors are simply referred to as wasps. While most sane people would just run away in terror at the sight of one of the little vicious killing machines, some scientists see the world through a wasp’s eyes.
Before leaving their nests, wasps take flight and start performing a sort of aerodynamic ritual. They start flying in loops around the nest, getting gradually higher and farther away from it, before eventually flying away to do whatever it is that wasps do – probably rob an old lady or something.
This technique is referred to by experts as performing “learning flights”. Wasps aren’t the only insects to engage in the series of loop-de-loops, as a decent number of flying insects perform this task before leaving the nest.
Most species engaging in the technique follow pretty much the same flight patterns as the wasps, backing away from the nest in a series of increasingly larger arcs, pivoting around the nest as they are looking back. This helps them see the nest from different distances and points of view, always keeping the nest in either their left or their right field of vision.
Despite the fact that scientists have known, or at least suspected for a while that the insects were doing this in order to get a sense of orientation regarding the location of the nest, it took the entomologist community somewhere around a decade to finally be able to understand how it works.
The world through the eyes of a wasp
In order to find out exactly what the wasps were doing on these learning flights, a team of scientists used high speed cameras to film the insects leave and return to their nests. As they were being recorded, the wasps also had their head position carefully monitored via the cameras, having their exact head movements captured.
With the help of a panoramic imager, the team built a 3D virtual environment identical to the one near the wasps’ nest, fully equipped with the wasp, its flight patterns, as well as its lines of sight during its departure and when it arrived.
They were then able to navigate the environment in first person, from the wasp’s perspective, allowing them to see what it saw, and to predict how the wasp was going to move. Future studies are to be performed on the subject.
Image source: Pixabay