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A mosquito’s secret weapon: a light touch and strong wings

Scientists have found the key to mosquitoes’ stealth takeoffs: They barely push off when making a fast getaway, but instead rely on strong and rapid wing beats to quickly get aloft without anyone noticing. The technique is in stark contrast to other insects, like flies, that push off first and then start beating their wings frantically, often tumbling uncontrollably in the process. That strong takeoff gives away their location, however, allowing us to swat them more easily than we can swat a mosquito. Mosquitoes are able to make stealthy takeoffs with an empty belly or one filled with a blood meal, which nearly doubles their weight. The researchers cycled through 600 mosquitoes as the team perfected its setup to film mosquito takeoffs with three high-speed cameras shooting at 125,000 frames per second.

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