Fly Plane

By: Spatula Tzar

Spatula & Sickle

After coming across this lovely image depicting the construction of a fly powered matchstick airplane, I had to try it for myself.

Entrapment by LDPE

Here are the flies, trapped within their impenetrable polyethylene terephthalate dungeon of doom. As difficult as it may be, avoid pouring the hydrochloric acid in with them. They find it very unpleasant, and may refuse to fly for you. Wait until after you get bored with the plane before you decide to bathe them.

Not just sticks and glue

Here is my luxury matchstick plane. It features a pine body, oak tail, and an antimony sulfide nose. The entire surface has been coated in a nitrocellulose lacquer for waterproofing and fire inducing. As you can see, it weighs about .4 grams.

Cryogenic hibernation

"Thirty seconds in the cooler!" Don't worry, it won't hurt them. They're just sleeping. They'll be fine as long as you don't forget about them.

No, that's not a hand you see on the shelf below. It's a foot.

Cyanoacrylic adhesive

While they are chilling out, fetch your favorite adhesive. I used a nice thick cyanoacrylic resin. It's fast acting and dries strong.

Weighing in

They certainly aren't heavyweights. All four of them weigh less than a tenth of a gram.

View them in their full ugliness

They sure are ugly little buggers. The one on the left has security issues, which is why he keeps hugging himself.

Stuck fast

Put down a drop of glue and paste them on. Stand them upright and try not to get glue on their wings. Nobody likes sticky wings.

Let them warm up, and watch it fly. Pretty soon, all airplanes will be powered by flies.

Hmmmmm...I seem to have a little problem here. Either I froze them too long or they are allergic to cyanoacrylate because they won't wake up. Pity. They would have been international internet superstars. Oh well, I'll try it again, this time using bees.

Bee Plane

Bees under plastic

These are the bees I caught for the second trial. Four nice big hornets, each with wings twice as long as the now obsolete flies. See the one clinging alone in the corner? That's Johnny. I didn't bother to name the others.

Johnny B. Goodfellow

I have a special sentiment towards Johnny. You see, I watched her being born.

I was watching the nest, waiting for the return of the elders, when I noticed something moving. One of the honeycomb cells was pulsating; a circular opening was slowly circumscribed in the seal. Moments later, Johnny crawled out.

Her wings glistened in the noonday sun as she took her first steps, credulously walking into my net. Immediately upon her birth, she is cast into the throws captivity. It was almost poetic.

Hexagonally tessellated barrier

You might have noticed the ironically honeycomb shaped fabric mesh sealing the jar. It's primary purpose is to retain the bees, but it also serves to aid in the sedation of the now irritated insidious insects. The chilling method proving fatal, I rendered them unconscious my means of gaseous intoxication.

I filled another jar with carbon dioxide gas from my convenient compression cylinder and gently poured it through the mesh. The effects were immediate. The bees dropped to the bottom of the jar, twitching as the gas saturated their hemoglobin, depriving their tiny brains of viable oxygen. Due to the density of the gas and the upright position of the jar, it remains in the presence of the bees until they are removed.

Stuck again

Seeing how the volatile cyanoacrylate adhesive was likely responsible for the demise of the previous subjects, I opted to use a relatively inert hot melt glue. The bees were a bit less than cooperative, despite their lack of consciousness. I eventually managed to secure them to the wings, albeit a little unevenly. They regained their senses rather quickly, and nearly managed to escape their form-fitting bonds.

Now, you'd think after all that trouble I went through I would get some spectacular results. Sadly, this was not the case. The bees moved about, attempting to crawl away, but flatly refused to fly. Not even a half-hearted beat of the wings did I get from these indolent creatures.

Busy as a bee? More like slothful as a slug.

I guess it's back to flies for me.

Update 19-Jan-2007: I've gotten several emails explaining why the insects won't fly. Apparently when their legs are touching something, it supresses their urge to fly. If they are glued by their body segments instead, it simulates falling through the air, triggering the flight reflex. Thus they start beating their wings. Unfortuanately, this being the middle of winter, there are very few insects to be found. I'll repeat my experiment once again in the spring.

~~Spatula Tzar

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