Annoying as they are, it would seem that wasps can teach us a couple of lessons about finding our way home and how to fly with our backs turned. A new study has proved that ground wasps fly backwards to find their way home.
Up until now, very little was known about the cues used by the garden-variety wasp in order to find its way to the hive. But, a team of researcher from the Australia’s National University managed to debunk this one. Using a set of high-speed cameras and a computer modelling, the team of scientists, led by Professor Jochen Zeil, analysed the flight path of a wasp, as it was leaving the hive.
According to the team in charge of the project, the mere wasp is very diligent in its endeavour to map out its environment before leaving the area around the hive. Zeil declared that the wasp’s mapping process is very similar to what we experience when we travel to a new place.
The professor used the analogy of a tourist arriving at a new hotel. He said that the first thing a person does when he travels to a new place is to gather a few guiding marks. Moreover, all of us have the tendency to walk backwards in order to observe the environment.
It would seem that the wasp basically does the same thing before leaving the area near its hive. According to the professor, the wasp, upon leaving the hive, performs a series of flybys in a zigzag pattern. While it fixes the hive, the insect gains altitude and flies further away from its nest.
That’s basically the whole feat, but what are the mechanics behind the process? In order to answer this question, the professor and his team had to use some pretty sophisticated computer modelling techniques.
According to their hypothesis, as the wasp leaves the nest, during the so-called orientation flight it will produce a series of systematic images, which it will use upon its return to the hive. Also, we do know for a fact that the eyes of the wasp are able to capture pictures of the surrounding in very low resolution. But the images are also panoramic.
With this information in mind, the professor and his team plotted all the information into a computer, in the hope that the results will be similar to the natural model. According to their statements, upon entering the flight data, the virtual wasp behaved exactly like its natural peer, using systematic images of its surrounding in order to find its way home.
The team managed to prove that ground wasps fly backwards to find their way home, by using high speed cameras and computer modelling. Also, the professor pointed out that the results of this study can be used in order to construct wasp-like robotic drones.