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Could Ladybird Wings Change The Style Of Umbrellas?

Scientists believe that ladybirds could hold the key to a transformation of umbrella and their style, making it possible to design a stylish umbrella that does not turn inside out on a blustery day.

Think of the last time you saw a ladybird. In a flash, they can choose to open their wings and fly away - but how do they pack such intricate, complex wings away under their small outer carapace?

The folding mechanism behind ladybird wings has remained a mystery as scientists have been unable to see underneath the outer spotted forewings, but a group of Japanese researchers have taken a step forward. They developed a unique transparent forewing, transplanted it onto a ladybird and observed the wings unfolding in a test environment.

But where do umbrellas come into this? Well, understanding the way ladybird wings operate could lead to a total redesign of the modern umbrella. Stylish umbrellas could be manufactured to not only look great, but perform significantly better in poor weather conditions.

"I believe that beetle wing folding has the potential to change the umbrella design that has been basically unchanged for more than 1000 years, " said Assistant Professor Kazuya Saito of the University of Tokyo's Institute of Industrial Science.

"Usually, transformable structures require a lot of parts including joints and rigid parts but ladybirds effectively use flexibility and elastic behaviour in the structures and achieve complex transformation by very simple structures”.

It’s believed that the rigid yet collapsible construction of the ladybird wing could lead to a revolutionary new umbrella design that could see seamless, flexible frames made to be almost indestructible in strong winds - although this is believed to be a long way off yet.

The study utilises high-speed cameras and CT scans to assess the ladybird and ultimately observe the wings folding and unfolding movements.

A design for a new type of umbrella is yet to be released and the research continues.