Structure and tensile properties of the forewing costal vein of the honeybee Apis mellifera.

Research paper by Yun Y Ma, Tianbao T Ma, Jianguo J Ning, Stanislav S Gorb

Indexed on: 15 Apr '20Published on: 15 Apr '20Published in: Soft Matter


In this study, we investigated the morphological features and tensile properties of the forewing costal vein of the honeybee (Apis mellifera) under fresh, dry and in vitro-time varied conditions. The costal vein is composed of an outer sub-vein and an inner vein starting from the wing base to nearly 50% of the wing span and then they are fused into one vein extending to the wing tip. Confocal laser scanning microscopy revealed that the outer sub-vein with red autofluorescence is stiffer than the inner one with green autofluorescence, and the membrane in the gap between the sub-veins exhibited a long blue-autofluorescence resilin stripe. Considering the irregular cross-sectional shape of the costal vein, cross-sections of the tested specimens after tensile failure were analysed using scanning electron microscopy, to precisely calculate their cross-sectional areas by a customized MATLAB program. The Young's modulus and tensile strength of fresh specimens were ∼4.78 GPa and ∼119.84 MPa, which are lower than those of dry specimens (∼9.08 GPa and ∼154.45 MPa). However, the tensile strain had the opposite relationship (fresh: ∼0.031, dry: ∼0.018). Thus, specimen desiccation results in increasing stiffness and brittleness. The morphological features and material properties of the costal vein taken together represent a tradeoff between both deformability and stiffness. Our study provides guidance for material selection and bionic design of the technical wings of flapping micro aerial vehicles.