Like a hummingbird or a creature from a Hayao Miyazaki film, hawk moths or Sphingidae, are a family of large insects with the magical-looking mastery of hovering in midair. They can also fly backward and keep incredibly stable when they’re jostled or knocked off balance.
In this bioGraphic video by Spine Films, The Art of Staying Stable, scientist Tyson Hedrick explains how their long proboscis, a potentially 35 centimeter (14 inch) long tubular mouthpart for drinking nectar, requires that stablity.
Hedrick and his colleagues at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill use multi-camera high-speed videography to capture 3D video of hawkmoths as they hover. What they’re finding will help scientists imagine a new generation of flapping-wing robotic vehicles—unprecedented and resilient machines that can weather the kind of turbulent environments that are currently off limits to ultra-small drones.
Reminder: Do not hurl projectiles at insects or birds. Related reading: Hummingbird hawk-moth (Macroglossum stellatarum).