The benefits of buggy design

Ask people what insects are “good for” (in the anthropocentric sense), and most people will answer that bees produce honey and wax, or silkworms spin cocoons of fine thread. A few people may even realise that shellac comes from the shells of lac bugs, or that carmine & cochineal red food colorings are made from a cactus-feeding beetle. And of course, everyone knows that ladybeetles (ladybird beetles / ladybugs) are useful predators.

But aside from these direct uses of insects for their labor or their exoskeletons, 21st-century scientists are increasingly using lowly hexapods for rather different pursuits: insects are fabulous engineering models!

an iridescent Blue Morpho butterfly flitting by

an iridescent Blue Morpho butterfly flying by

The field of biomimetics is the realm of Read the rest of this entry »