The Best of Both Worlds

The Best of Both Worlds

Most insects that live on the surface of water have to choose to either travel through the air to get around or in the water. However, scientists have discovered an insect, the lily pad beetle that has evolved to use both air and water to get itself from one place to another.

The lily pad beetle perches on the surface of water and beats its wings for propulsion as if it is going to take off into the air. However, rather than lift off, the beetle stays tethered to the water with little claws placed at the end of its legs. These little claws anchor the beetle to the water so the insect won’t fly off because of a strong wing beat or gust of wind.

The beetle actually uses these anchors and the power of it’s wings to glide across the water a bit like a windsurfer. As it moves along, the power of its wings in conjunction with the claws makes the water bounce like a trampoline. What’s so impressive is that the beetle just barely keeps its wings from touching the surface of the water as it moves about a foot a second. What’s more is that this surfing actually demands more energy than simple air flight.

Why do you think these beetles use this surfing method to travel? Why don’t they just fly through the air since it takes less energy?

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