Guiding BeeHow Insects Fly

Wing Structures and Manoeuverability

The essential material of all insect wings is the same: a thin membrane which is supported by blood-filled veins around the margin and within (see photo).

Stark contrasts between the wings distinguish the four largest orders of insects (and, in fact, the wings are the principal distinguishing factor in the hierarchy of insects and are the reason for the 'ptera' ending of order names).


In addition to a pair of membranous wings, the Coleoptera have converted the front pair of wings into thick, hard shields which protect both the hind (flying) wings and the beetle's body as demonstrated by the Tortoise beetle (photo).


Wasps and bees, in the order Hymenoptera, keep their two pairs of wings together with a zipper-like structure to allow the wings to act as a single pair, as a single flight surface provides greater stability and manoeuverability during flapping flight.

How Insects Fly...1, March 1996