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Mosquitoes Navigate Rain by Not Caring

Mosquitoes are so light that speeding raindrops simply brush them aside without imparting much force. Karen Hopkin reports

Have you ever wondered what happens to mosquitoes in the rain? A raindrop is, like, 50 times heavier than those little suckers. So getting hit by one has gotta hurt, right?

Well, not so much. Because researchers at Georgia Tech have found that the bugs are so light, speeding water drops simply brush them aside, without imparting much force. The results appear in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. [Andrew K. Dickerson et al., "Mosquitoes survive raindrop collisions by virtue of their low mass"]

Previous studies have shown that precipitation can be a real pain for lots of winged critters. Bats expend twice as much energy flying through a storm as in clear skies. But what about bugs no bigger than the raindrops themselves?

Researchers used high-speed video to watch mosquitoes wingin’ in the rain—well, through a spray of mist in the lab. They saw that when a skeeter and a water droplet meet, the insect basically hitches a ride for a bit before peeling away off unharmed.

So the bugs go with the flow and offer little resistance. And the drop slows only slightly, keeping its kinetic energy rather than blasting the bug. So for storm-trooping skeeters, resistance is not only futile. It’s all wet.

—Karen Hopkin

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]

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