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Feet adhere temporarily: aphids


Aphis faba / Michael Beck.. / LicenseGFDL - Gnu Free Document License

The feet of aphids appear to adhere to surfaces using capillary adhesion.

"Thus, in an aerial system, water can act as an adequate glue by a mechanism commonly referred to as 'capillary adhesion.' Aphids appear to use it to adhere to surfaces (Dixon, Croghan, and Gowing 1990). And it almost certainly helps a tree frog rest placidly on a vertical pane of glass." (Vogel 2003:428)

"1. The adhesive force acting between the adhesive organs and substratum for a number of aphid species has been studied. In the case of Aphis fabae, the force per foot is about 10 µN. This is much the same on both glass (amphiphilic) and silanized glass (hydrophobic) surfaces. The adhesive force is about 20 times greater than the gravitational force tending to detach each foot of an inverted aphid.

"2. The mechanism of adhesion was considered. Direct van der Waals forces and viscous force were shown to be trivial and electrostatic force and muscularforce were shown to be improbable. An adhesive force resulting from surface tension at an air-fluid interface was shown to be adequate and likely.

"3. Evidence was collected that the working fluid of the adhesive organ has the properties of a dilute aqueous solution of a surfactant. There is a considerable reserve of fluid, presumably in the cuticle of the adhesive organ." (Dixon et al. 1990:243)

About the inspiring organism
Med_aphis_fabae_2005.06.12_15.23.32p6120057 bean aphid
Aphis fabae Scopoli, 1763
Common name: black bean aphid

Learn more at
Some organism data provided by: ITIS: The Integrated Taxonomic Information System
Organism/taxonomy data provided by:
Species 2000 & ITIS Catalogue of Life: 2008 Annual Checklist

Bioinspired products and application ideas

Application Ideas: Using capillary action to create nano-scale molds, cosmetics and sunscreens that are not absorbed through the skin.

Industrial Sector(s) interested in this strategy: Nanotechnology, cosmetics and sunscreens

Vogel S. 2003. Comparative Biomechanics: Life's Physical World. Princeton: Princeton University Press. 580 p.
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Dixon AFG; Croghan PC; Gowing RP. 1990. The mechanism by which aphids adhere to smooth surfaces. Journal of Experimental Biology. 152(1): 243-253.
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