See, in Slow Motion, how Ladybugs Fit Wings Inside Their Spotted red Shells

A view of the insects that is rarely seen

ladybug flight
trevorwhite/RooM the Agency/Corbis

Many people have seen a little ladybug split open its hard shiny spotted shells — a hard case called an elytra — to reveal its true wings before it flies away. The whole event is somewhat surprising because the round curved case doesn’t seem like it could hold such wings. Well, in slow motion, the act is even more wonderful to watch.

Cameraman Rainer Bergomaz recorded exactly that slow-motion takeoff at 3000 frames per second in this video posted by pcoimaging on Youtube (H/T Rebecca O’Connell for Mental Floss). The edited video sequence actually shows 250 frames per second before and after the main event  and slows to 25 frames per second as each ladybug unfurls its wings.

Ladybugs take off - in slow motion (XXL)

For a Boston University course blog, Dereck Fagundes writes about the ladybug’s fascinating anatomy, first describing that the elytra are actually a set of modified forewings that play no role in flight. He write:

The hindwings are where the magic happens and flight is born. These wings, or alae, are four times the size of the ladybug itself and can move independently of each other. Each of these alae can move up and down, forward and backward. The alae [are] inter-laced with veins, which the wings fold along when packed up inside of the elytra.

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