Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

Here, we present a detailed analysis of the deforming wing kinematics of free-flying hoverflies (Eristalis tenax, Linnaeus) during hovering flight. We used four high-speed digital video cameras to reconstruct the motion of approximately 22 points on each wing using photogrammetric techniques. While the root-flapping motion of the wing is similar in both the downstroke and upstroke, and is well modelled as a simple harmonic motion, other wing kinematic parameters show substantial variation between the downstroke and upstroke. Whereas the magnitude of the angle of incidence varies considerably within and between different hoverflies, the twist distribution along the wing is highly stereotyped. The angle of incidence and camber both show a recoil effect as they change abruptly at stroke reversal. Pronation occurs consistently after stroke reversal, which is perhaps surprising, because this has been found to reduce lift production in modelling studies. We find that the alula, a hinged flap near the base of the wing, operates in two discrete states: either in plane with the wing, or flipped approximately normal to it. We hypothesize that the alula may be acting as a flow-control device.

Original publication




Journal article


J R Soc Interface

Publication Date





131 - 142


Animals, Biomechanical Phenomena, Computer Simulation, Diptera, Elastic Modulus, Flight, Animal, Models, Biological, Stress, Mechanical, Wings, Animal