Cicada wings rip bacteria apart

Illustrated by Perry Shirley

By John Upton

Forget sanitary hand wipes. Scientists have discovered that cicada wings have evolved to kill bacteria without using any chemicals.

The wing are coated with tiny blunt bumps that are so small and plentiful that when a bacterium lands on them, it becomes skewered through multiple parts of its tiny writhing cell wall.

The bacterium doesn’t pop — it is torn open, shredded to pieces by the bumpy wing.

The Australian and Spanish scientists, who published their findings in Biophysical Journal, say the discovery could lead to antibacterial materials “incorporating cicada wing nanopatterns.”

Watch a simulation of a bacterium that was unlucky enough to land on a cicada wing: