The Physics
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Frequency of Fly Wings

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Bibliographic Entry Result
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Price, Peter W. Insect Ecology. New York: Wiley, 1984. "With the exception of the butterflies most insects fly at 50-2,000 beats/second and many have therefore avoided the wing beat frequency barrier." 50–2,000 Hz
"Flies." World Book Encyclopedia. Chicago: World Book, 1997. "A housefly's wing beat about 200 times a second, and some midges move their wings 1,000 times a second." 200 Hz
1,000 Hz
Chapman, R.F. The Insects: Structure and Function. Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1982. "In general, insects with synchronous flight muscles have relatively low wing beat frequencies up to about 50 Hz; insects with asynchronous flight muscles often have higher frequencies usually over 100 Hz and extending to at least 600 Hz, in Aedes, and perhaps 1000 Hz in Forcipomyia (Diptera)" 1,000 Hz
Wigglesworth, V.B. The Principles of Insect Physiology. New York: Halsted, 1972. "The following are some of the values obtained, in wing beats per second… Musca, 190, 180-97, 330…." 190 Hz
180–197 Hz
330 Hz
O' Toule, Christopher. Encyclopedia of Insects. New York: Facts on File, 1987. "It also means a high degree of maneuverability, with very high speeds and wing beat frequencies (up to 1000 beats per second in tiny midges), and a control of direction and position which permits access to every possible landing site, even upside down on ceilings." 1,000 Hz

Flies are insects with two wings. Yet, there are also flies with four wings but they are not true flies. An example of this is butterflies. Unlike the butterfly, flies lack the beauty and elegance, but are one of the most distinct and interesting orders of insects.

Most flies range about 1.3 millimeters (1/20 inch) in size and are found throughout the world. Flies belong in a main group (order) of insects known as Diptera and are in a class known as Insecta. There are about 100,000 species of flies and they make up a quarter of all insects living in temperate countries. Flies are among the fastest of all flying insects and they have the ability to land anywhere, even upside down on ceilings. The buzzing sound that flies create are the sound of its wings beating. This beating can range from 200 to 2000 beats per second depending on the species, its age and its size.

Values for wing beat frequencies are different for different species of flies due to the difference in wing structure, width, length and muscular components. Age also plays a role in how fast a fly flies because of effects of aging on the flight muscles in the fly wings. Older flies have a slower wing beat frequency. Size also contributes because wing beat frequencies are generally higher in small flies than in big flies.

Nancy Lee -- 2000