Questions for “Butterflies use jet propulsion for quick getaways”

a cabbage butterfly just after lifting off of a flower

This cabbage butterfly’s wings lifted it during takeoff. As they snap together in a wing clap, they will propel it forward.

shene /Moment/Getty Images Plus

To accompany “Butterflies use jet propulsion for quick getaways


Before Reading:

1.  How do you think butterflies use their wings to change direction as they fly?

2.  Ever try to catch a butterfly? It seems to slowly meander through the air, yet can be challenging to catch with your hands (as opposed to a net). How do you think it does so well at avoiding being caught?

During Reading:

1.  What move do butterflies make to get airborne?

2.  What are silver-washed fritillaries and how did the Lund ecologists use them?

3.  What are wind tunnels? How were they used in the experiments with butterflies?

4.  What does it mean to be aerodynamic?

5.  What is a vortex and where were they seen in the Lund experiments? What triggered them?

6.  What two forces created by the butterflies’ wings give rise to their fluttery flight paths?

7.  What data do Christoffer Johansson and Per Henningsson offer to make the case that “flexibility” is key to jet-propelled butterflies?

After Reading:

1.  What intrigues you most about butterflies (or moths)? Now design how you might use science to better explain that attribute of these insects to you. What would you do?

2.  Name three other animals that interest you. Now describe at least one feature of each that engineers might like to one day use as a feature of some new or improved product.