How do butterflies fly?

Just how do those mesmerising wings work?

When they are actively flying, rather than gliding, butterflies rapidly move their forewings in a figure-of-eight pattern. This creates small differences in air pressure around the wings that produce forward momentum. Rather than flying in a straight line like birds, butterflies flit up and down.

Studies of air movements around the wings have indicated that this is due to turbulence created by the wings and could help butterflies avoid predators. Scientists believe that a butterfly’s wings are much larger than they need to be to support its weight in the air. Big wings, however, might attract mates or improve manoeuvrability.

Check out this video from BBC Earth for an ultra slo-mo look at butterflies in flight:

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