The Physics
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Frequency of Bee Wings

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Bibliographic Entry Result
(w/surrounding text)
Chapman, R. F. The Insects: Structure and Functions. New York: American Elsevier, 1969. "In the Apis and Musca the frequency is about 190/second." 190 Hz
"Invertebrates: Insects." The World Book Encyclopedia of Science, The Animal World Edition. Chicago: World Book, 1987. "The number of wing beats varies greatly from 4–20 in butterflies to 190 beats/second in bees and up to 1000 beats/second in a small fly." 190 Hz
Micucci, Charles. The Life and Times of the Honey Bee. United States: Houghton Mifflin, 1995. "A honey bee has two pairs of wings that can beat 250 times/second." 250 Hz
Romoser, William J. The Science of Entomology. New York: Macmillan, 1973. "Insect Wing Beats per sec
Apis: 190, 108-23, 250"
190 Hz
108–123 Hz
250 Hz
Smith, Robert H. Time Life for Children: Understanding Science and Nature. United States: Time, 1993. "The bee's wings are small for its body, but beat 200 times per second letting the bee fly or hover in one spot." 200 Hz

After an exhaustive search of various subject areas I was able to find five different sources which contained a measurement for the frequency of bee wings. Although all of the measurements contained in each of the five sources were close in their values, some variations did exist. One book even went so far as to give three different values for the frequency compiled from various experiments and other resources. There may be many reasons why these numerical values vary even if it is only a slight difference.

One reason for the difference is the varying ages of the bees used in the experiments. It stands to reason that the older the bee the slower the wing beat frequency because of the effects of aging on the anatomical components of bee wings. Variations can also be accounted for by slight variations of the size of the bee itself and of the wings as well. The larger the bee and its wings the lower the frequency will be because it will take more time for longer wings to complete one full up and down motion, therefore beating fewer times per second. Yet another reason for the discrepancy between each source may be that different types of bees were used as models during the experiments. For example one book may have studied the wing beat frequency of Bumble Bees, while another studied the wing beat frequency of a Honey Bee. Wing structure, width, length and muscular components may be different in each type of bee. There may also be a difference in the wing beat frequencies of workers, drones, and queen bees. The variation may be small but any change can alter the calculated frequency.

A measurement such as the frequency of bee wings can never be universally accepted. There are many different sources which contain conflicting information on this subject each with valid data or references to back their measurements up. It can not be determined which source has the correct value, but someone doing research has to realize that there are many underlying reasons as to why the data varies.

Michelle Finnegan -- 1999

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