Measuring the frequency response of the honeybee thorax

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Insects with asynchronous flight muscles are believed to flap at the effective fundamental frequency of their thorax–wing system. Flapping in this manner leverages the natural elasticity of the thorax to reduce the energetic requirements of flight. However, to the best of our knowledge, the fundamental frequency of the insect wing–muscle–thorax system has not been measured. Here, we measure the linear frequency response function (FRF) of honeybee Apis mellifera thoraxes about their equilibrium state in order to determine their fundamental frequencies. FRFs relate the input force to output acceleration at the insect tergum and are acquired via a mechanical vibration shaker assembly. When compressed 50 μm, the thorax fundamental frequency averaged across all subjects was about 50% higher than reported wingbeat frequencies. We suspect that the measured fundamental frequencies are higher in the experiment than during flight due to boundary conditions and posthumous muscle stiffening. Next, we compress the thorax between 100–300 μm in 50 μm intervals to assess the sensitivity of the fundamental frequency to geometric modifications. For all specimens considered, the thorax fundamental frequency increased nearly monotonically with respect to level of compression. This implies that the thorax behaves as a nonlinear hardening spring when subject to large displacements, which we confirmed via static force–displacement testing. While there is little evidence that insects utilize this non-linearity during flight, the hardening characteristic may be emulated by small resonant-type flapping wing micro air vehicles to increase flapping frequency bandwidth. Overall, methods established through this work provide a foundation for further dynamical studies on insect thoraxes moving forward.




Jankauski, Mark A. “Measuring the Frequency Response of the Honeybee Thorax.” Bioinspiration & Biomimetics 15, no. 4 (May 13, 2020): 046002. doi:10.1088/1748-3190/ab835b
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