Ladybugs' wings work just like origami - scientists

When it comes to origami, it appears art has been imitating life without even realising it.

Japanese scientists have revealed for the first time just how ladybugs' wings work - and recreated it in origami.

Ladybugs close their wing cases before retracting their wings, which are much wider and longer than the bug is wide.

Scientists at the University of Tokyo replaced ladybugs' wings with a transparent casing called an 'elytron', and used high-speed cameras to analyse just exactly what is going on.

"I wasn't sure if the ladybug could fold its wings with an artificial elytron made of nail-art resin," Kazuya Saito, lead author on the study, said. "I was surprised when I found out it could."

(University of Tokyo)
(University of Tokyo)

Turns out ladybug wings have veins similar to a metal tape measure - allowing them to bend when necessary, but stay straight when they need to fly.

"The ladybugs' technique for achieving complex folding is quite fascinating and novel, particularly for researchers in the fields of robotics, mechanics, aerospace and mechanical engineering," said Prof Saito.

One useful application could be in making umbrellas better, he said.