Can Wasps Fly Backward?

We’ve all seen wasps flying forwards, but what about backwards?

Wasps can fly backward and have been documented doing so as a way of orientating themselves so that they can remember their way back to their nests. They will also fly backward when moving between flowers to find nectar.

Let’s take a closer look at why wasps fly backward.

When leaving a nest, wasps need to make sure they know how to get back to it, so they take reconnaissance flights to familiarise themselves with the local area. This involves taking several short flights around the nest before venturing further.

Wasp flying backward
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A 2016 study in the journal of Current Biology used cameras to take a look at what wasps were doing when they left the nest. The research revealed that wasps actually fly backward in order to see the nest from the perspective of arriving.

The wasps were found to fly backward in systematic patterns gradually flying higher and further from the nest. The wasps were able to store this data and use it to find the nest when returning.

This research is being used to develop artificial intelligence, as it is thought this behavior could be mapped and simulated.

How fast do wasp wings vibrate?

The vibration of wings in wasps has been found to be between 117 and 247 beats per second. warmer weather was associated with faster vibration. The optimum temperature was recorded at around 25°C (77°F) (Source: Spradbery) This is because wasps are cold-blooded so have increased energy in warmer conditions. The colder the weather gets the more wasps will slow down and eventually die. Read More.

Wasps have four wings. The forewings are larger and strongly developed and the hindwing smaller but connected to the forewings by a row of hooks called hamuli.

How fast can wasps fly?

Most wasps including yellow-jackets have been recorded to fly an average speed of around 7mph. This is an average speed and they have been clocked at higher speeds up as much as 20 mph.

The fastest wasp is the Asian Giant Hornet also known as the murder wasp, which has been clocked at up to 25 mph.

While there is no record of how fast a wasp can fly backward it is likely far slower than if they were flying forward.

Are wasp’s wings only used for flying?

In addition to flying wasps use their wings to ventilate their nests. In the summer wasp nests can get very warm, so they take measures to reduce the heat. This includes collecting water to douse the nest and also flapping their wings to ventilate the nest. The fanning effect also acts to distribute heat.

Some species of wasp including the warrior wasp are also known to use their wings as a warning signal. They will drum their wings as a warning before initiating an attack. This has also given them the nickname drummer wasp. This warning should be well headed as they have been recorded as ranking at the top of the Schmidt insect pain index alongside the tarantula hawk Read More.