Summertime is full of insects, as moths hover around porch lights and fireflies light up in the night. While you've likely seen these creatures in passing, fascinating video footage will have you gain a whole new appreciation for them. North Carolina-based research biologist Dr. Adrian Smith captures these insects and others in extreme slow-motion flight. The footage features critters from eight taxonomic orders as they take off, flutter, and land in a tiny “studio.” The result is a ballet of bugs that are full of unexpected grace and beauty.
Dr. Smith set the stage for the different species by setting up a black light in his basement. Then, he filmed the creatures at 3,200 frames per second. Some of the insects include the familiar Eastern firefly, which is technically a beetle. In preparation for flight, it must lift its elytra (hard forewings) to free its translucent hind wings. Fireflies beat these wings 62 times per second to stay afloat. Another of the more common insects featured is the rosy maple moth. As Dr. Smith says, the species is “clearly the best moth.” Cartoonish and fluffy, they are the teddy bear of the moth world. “It looks like a flying muppet,” remarks Dr. Smith.
The black light also drew some rare flies. In the video, the giant stonefly (also known as the salmon fly) shows off its special wing movements. Scientists hypothesize these movements might have allowed prehistoric stoneflies to skim over water surfaces before achieving true airborne flight. Despite the giant stonefly's name, the fishfly is actually the largest visitor recorded. Its forewings measure 37.6 mm and beat 11 times per second. This is remarkably few beats for such a large insect.
Watch the video below and be enchanted by what you see.