Remarkable innovation greets us every day. Here, in the waning days of summer, the last of the season’s flowers serve as a stage – showcasing innovation that had evaded our understanding until relatively recently.

A variety of bees make their way from flower to flower, gathering nectar and pollen. Laden with these treasures, they return to their nests to provide nourishment to those that wait there. While there is much to admire about all aspects of this mission, it is the transit from flower to flower, and flower to nest, that is truly a wonder of nature. The mechanisms underpinning bee flight have been a perplexing conundrum for the better part of a century.

In his 1934 treatise on insect flight, Antoine Magnan revealed that his colleague André Sainte-Laguë had calculated that bee flight was an aerodynamic impossibility.  Bee bodies, especially bumblebee bodies, were simply too large to be compensated by the haphazard nature of winged flight. And yet they flew. How was this possible?