Episode 156: Bug Special

Air Date: December 1, 2010

One thousand honey bees are capable of lifting a laptop.

busted

Adam and Jamie started by covering a laptop with bee-friendly adhesive. They started attaching bees to the laptop and found that the at least five times more beehive frames were required to cover the laptop than were shown in the video this myth was based on. Still, the bees could not lift the laptop.

Small-scale tests indicated that an average honeybee could carry 96 milligrams of weight; based on this result, it would take at least 23,000 bees to lift the laptop. Adam counted the number of bees per square inch in the beehive frames, measured the laptop’s surface area, and calculated that only 2,300 bees would fit onto it. As a further demonstration, Jamie used toy helicopters to show that any lift generated by the bees’ wings would be counteracted by the force of air being pushed down onto the payload, making it impossible to lift anything as shown in the video. He and Adam declared the myth busted at this point, then described a method by which the video could have been faked – by attaching fishing line to the laptop, covering it with bees, and hoisting it with an off-camera stick or handle.

Bags of water hung from the ceiling can repel flies.

busted

This myth is based in the theory that refracted light in water confused flies’ compound eyes.

The Build Team made a rig consisting of three chambers separated by trap doors. The first chamber would hold the flies, the second would hold some rotten meat, and the third would hold both rotten meat and a bag of water. They then released over 5,000 flies from the first chamber and waited to see how many flies would go into each of the other two. After the chambers were sealed off, they let all the flies die and collected the corpses to weigh for comparison. The chambers with and without the water contained 35 and 20 grams of flies, respectively, busting the myth.

A person riding a motorcycle at high speed can be killed from the impact of hitting a bug.

plausible

Doing some research, the Build Team discovered that the most vulnerable point on the human body was the throat; an impact with 76 pounds of force could cause the windpipe to swell and suffocate the victim. They attached a force plate to a mannequin torso, put it in a sidecar attached to a motorcycle, and had Tory drive at 85 miles per hour so that the plate would hit an insect suspended at throat height. Tests with a common fly, a cicada, and a Goliath beetle (the largest flying insect they could find) yielded 10, 37, and 100 pounds of force, respectively.

To investigate the speeds needed to inflict a lethal injury at head or chest height, the team set up an air cannon to fire a Goliath beetle analog at the force plate. An impact at 120 mph gave 285 pounds of force, while a test at 200 mph (described as the speed of the fastest motorcyclist ever to get a traffic ticket) yielded 500 pounds. Although neither of these was high enough to result in a fatal injury, the team deemed the myth plausible, since a heavy enough insect hitting just the right spot on a rider could lead to his death.

25 Comments

  1. faiz says:

    Dear Mythbusters,

    I’m Faiz from Singapore and i”m 12 yrs old. I think you sould put the insects into chambers that are filled with different gases and then observe which gas will allow the insect tested to grow at a quicker rate.

    Regards,
    Faiz

    • Charlie says:

      o.O
      Would that be -BUSTING- some kind of -MYTH- or just some science experiment?

      • Sara says:

        I don’t know but it sounds cool>:] like test if Carbon Monoxide will make bugs grow…

        Mythbusters should test more household myths, but my favs are the movie ones. ^ ^

  2. Bob-H says:

    I’ve tried the bags of water to repel flies. One of the things to do with this is put a few pennies in the bottom of the bag. The Mythbusters didn’t do this. Their experiment also put the flies in a constraining plexiglass container, which could have affected the results.

    My experiment with the bags, water and pennies worked, and a friend of mine tried it and it worked for him, too. So I would say it’s confirmed, unless you put it in a plexiglass box for a TV show.

    • Marie Wilkens says:

      This was done absolutely WRONG! The flies are confined to a box, they have gorged on rotten meat and are flying around in a stupor. They couldn’t care less if there’s a bag of water hanging there. All they want to do is lay eggs and die! Got a bag of water on the porch that absolutely repels flies. We don’t sit on the porch in a box with rotten meat. You must do this again! Got an Uncle that think he knows everything and I quote- “I was hoping all the while that you folks down there in the sleepy south were watching this program burst your silly superstition.” I know a lot of people here in the “sleepy south” that use this method to repel flies. MythBusters- as much as I love you guys- you Are WRONG!

      • Robert says:

        While I agree, the test itself could be redesigned to simulate the actual conditions better, I have recently seen this myth BUSTED by experience. We recently ate out on the covered patio of a Mexican restaurant in Austin that had several such bags (with pennies) suspended along the edges of the roof. We were constantly harrassed by flies as we ate. The bags of water did nothing to repel flies from my vantage point. At best this myth is inconclusive.

    • james says:

      I have tried this many times and it has never worked. in fact I’m dealing with the pests at this very moment with the bag hanging right in front of me. I would like the Mythbusters to try it with natural light outdoors instead of artificial light indoors.

  3. mak attak says:

    Dear Mythbusters , well im amazed with all your combined knowledge , that you tested the bugs hitting the windpipe at a static position !! you got 10 psi with the fly , what if the fly was traveling at 30 mph heading towards the biker ? [30 was jus a figure ] , its not often you hit a static fly , your test should of emulated natural conditions , what are the calculations of combined force with say 85 mph bike speed , and say 30 mph fly speed ? , or what a fly can do , it might be 85mph in a short burst as well , i bet you would get 70 psi

  4. mina says:

    I have a compost box on my balcony and flies were swarming around. Very annoying. I heard about the water bag method and I thought: “I’ll try. What do I have to lose?” I placed a few ziploc bags with water around on my balcony… and I was pleasantly surprised to see that within half an hour, the flies were all gone! No kidding. I didn’t even put any pennies in the bags. So, I’m afraid or… should I say I’m glad… to say that you are wrong.

  5. Katie says:

    Hey I just got done watching you try to see if the water would addtrack them or not….It really works but you have to put a penny in the ziplock bag with the water..For it to work

    • Mark says:

      so what does the penny do? i can’t believe this would work.

      • Jackie says:

        The pennies make a light reflection which acts like a lighthouse (so to speak) warning them to stay away. It has worked for us for 3 years with keeping to wood bees away.

    • Seraph says:

      I would really like to see this tested again. I too have heard about putting pennies into the bag, and I have a friend who told me about it after both seeing it at a restaurant he went to and trying it himself in his horse stable.

      A search on Google returns many success stories with the pennies included. Please can you guys test this again?

  6. Genesis says:

    Hey do you have any idea of how goliath beetles carry their own weight!! It seems impossible because of how much they weigh! The world is just crazy and awesome!

  7. Jackie says:

    Hi, I wanted to make a comment on the bag of water and flies. I live in CT and we have a wood bee issue. The only thing that has kept them away is a ziplock bag half filled with water and a few shiny pennies. The bag is hung outside the back door; where they always look for a place to burrow in the spring/summer. The bag’s placement is also in direct sunlight for the majority of the day. I guess the theory is the sun (and a breeze) makes the reflection of the pennies in the water greater; which deters the bees from coming. I never heard of it for flies, but I will say it works for the wood bees for the past 3 years….give it a try :)

  8. Schaps says:

    I was offended that they abused the bees with their silly “experiment”

  9. Ken says:

    Schaps- Im offended that you abused the bees with your silly “comment”.

  10. Eric G. says:

    There is a restaurant here in Texas that claims they discovered the water bag trick to repel flies. First, you forgot the all important penny. This will not work without the penny. Second, like others said a confined space does not work. It works great with hundreds of flies but not near a dairy farm with tens of thousands.

    I will tell you that from experience in North Texas (Denton) this does work extremely. Try again and research Rudy’s BBQ and Country Store to see if they really did discover the trick to repel flies.

  11. Allen says:

    Hey can you mythbusters please do an experiment on repelling mosquitoes with high sound frequencies

  12. Eig N. Value says:

    The Mythbusters are WRONG! The penny water bags work great, as long as you are eatin’ bbq outside, with the sun coming up on the left and going down behind the TX state flag. Other than that, well of course it doesn’t work.

  13. Richard from Texas says:

    LOL, now the Fly Bag deal is on Snopes as well and they claim it is undetermined to be true, so who should we believe, Myth Busters or Snopes!!! What a quandary!!

    • Frederick Michael says:

      The Snopes article is great! They mention a study by a guy at NC State that showed that the bags actually attracted MORE flies.

  14. A J says:

    Premise: Hanging clear plastic bags full of water repels flies.

    I am not an expert, nor have I tested this at all, but I saw this at a busy Mexican restaurant with outdoor seating and all the employees there swore it worked.

    What I think is happening is that when there is any people movement at all around the area it is reflected in all of the bags at various angles at the same time. Just a few people walking about are reflected in all of the bags and at many angles making the bags seem like something moving all the time. Flies are skittish to any movement.

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