For a mosquito, venturing out during a heavy rainstorm means risking collisions with droplets 50 times its weight—but this doesn’t deter it from living in humid, rainy climes. In fact, researchers have discovered that the mosquito’s low mass, along with a sturdy exoskeleton, helps it weather (so to speak) the impacts of raindrops without much trouble.
How the Heck:
The researchers confined three-millimeter-long Anopheles mosquitoes in a “drop impact chamber,” an acrylic cage five centimeters wide and twenty centimeters tall. To keep the mosquitoes confined and airborne, a mesh top blocked the insects’ exit while still admitting water droplets, and the cage vibrated once every few seconds to prevent the bugs from landing on the walls.
A high-speed camera filmed the collisions as the researchers either pumped jets of water into the chamber with the speed of a falling raindrop, or released slower droplets to let the camera get a better view. Although a direct body hit could drag the bug down in a five- to twenty-body-length fall before the mosquito escaped the water, droplets tended to hit the mosquitoes’ long wings and legs instead, rolling off their water-repellant bodies and only slightly skewing their flights.