How Do Flying Insects Turn on a Dime to Catch Prey?

If you've ever watched flameskimmer dragonflies (Libellula saturata) zip-zagging around your yard looking for prey, you've probably marveled at the wings.

How do they do that?

 “Insect wings are dynamic," postdoctoral research fellow and insect biomechanist Mary Salcedo of Virginia Tech told those at her recent UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology seminar. "They're living structures. They allow an insect to pollinate. They allow insects to unfurl their wing or turn on a dime to catch their prey."

Speaking on "Hydraulics in an Insect Wing: How Venation Pattern Affects Circulation," she went on to explain that insect wings are flexible, dynamic living structures that are composed of long tubular veins, and thin membrane."

"The veins act as conduits, containing hemolymph (insect blood), oxygen supply (through trachea tubes), and nerves (sensory information in flight). Wings allow an insect to perform a myriad of behaviors such as predation, migration and pollination."

Her seminar also marked the first of the department's "virtual seminars" or webinars. This change--from gathering in 122 Briggs Hall to a virtual seminar--is due to the ongoing threat of the coronavirus pandemic.

If you missed it, you can watch her seminar here.

Salcedo, a member of the Jake Socha lab, received a National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Research Fellowship to investigate fundamental insect physiology. She holds three degrees: a bachelor of science in applied and computational math sciences (2012( from the University of Washington;  a bachelor of science in molecular, cellular and developmental biology (2012) from the University of Washington, and a doctorate in biomechanics, biology and applied math (2018) from Harvard.

Coordinating the seminars is community ecologist Rachel Vannette, assistant professor, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology ( She will be providing the links the virtual seminars. (See schedule of spring seminars.)