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Hydrodynamics of Insects. Part 1. Jetting of the Dragonfly Larvae. Part 2. Honeybee at the Air-water Interface: Surfing with the Capillary Wave


Roh, Chris (2017) Hydrodynamics of Insects. Part 1. Jetting of the Dragonfly Larvae. Part 2. Honeybee at the Air-water Interface: Surfing with the Capillary Wave. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/Z97P8WFW.


This thesis presents the study on the hydrodynamics of two insects commonly known for their aerial adaptation: the dragonfly and the honeybee.

Part 1: Anisopteran dragonflies live underwater in their larval stages. The key factor for their aquatic adaptation is the modified hindgut chamber that is used as a pump. The two main functions of this biological pump are jet propulsion and respiration. Both functions involve jetting and refilling of the chamber through an orifice guard by a tri-leaflet anal valve. Despite it being a unique machinery among insects, associated hydrodynamic studies are limited thus far. In the first part of this thesis, various aspects of the hydrodynamics of the dragonfly larvae’s ventilatory flow are studied. The flow visualization showed that the respiratory flow is laminar but the propulsion flow is turbulent. The hydrodynamic force analysis showed that jetting and refilling phase forces are dominated by quasi-steady momentum flux and unsteady acceleration, respectively. Finally, simultaneous measurement of the anal valve kinematics and jet flow showed that the larvae could influence the direction and magnitude of the jet by controlling the anal valve leaflets.

Part 2: Water-collecting honeybees often fall onto water surfaces. However, bees trapped by the “stickiness” of the water can propel by vibrating their wings, often making it to shore. In the second part of this thesis, the honeybee’s propulsion mechanisms at the air–water interface is studied. The result shows that the bees can achieve three body-lengths per second propulsion speed. High-speed video of their wing motion shows that honeybee’s propulsion involves pulling blobs of water with the underside of the wing, while pushing on a surface wave with its trailing edge. This propulsion mechanism resembles surfing on a self-generated capillary wave. Moreover, their wing vibration generates complicated surface waves and flows, below which the deeper water flow shows a single jet stream. From the wave and flow field measurements, the average force imparted to the surrounding fluid is estimated and compared to the average force calculated from the bee’s body motion. The resulting average forces are of the same order of magnitude, which means that generating wave and flow are both important for the bee’s propulsion.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:Fluid mechanics; Insect; Dragonfly Larvae; Honeybee
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Engineering and Applied Science
Major Option:Aeronautics
Awards:Richard Bruce Chapman Memorial Award, 2017.
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Gharib, Morteza
Thesis Committee:
  • Dickinson, Michael H. (chair)
  • Ravichandran, Guruswami
  • Dabiri, John O.
  • Gharib, Morteza
Defense Date:18 May 2017
Funding AgencyGrant Number
National Science Foundation Graduate Research FellowshipDGE-1144469
National Science FoundationCBET-1511414
Charyk Bio-inspired Laboratory at California Institute of TechnologyUNSPECIFIED
Record Number:CaltechTHESIS:06082017-183218154
Persistent URL:
Roh, Chris0000-0002-5681-0040
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:10320
Deposited By: Chris Roh
Deposited On:13 Jun 2017 20:22
Last Modified:09 Aug 2022 16:58

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