Staying Dry and Clean: An Insect’s Guide to Hydrophobicity

Elizabeth Bello, Yutao Chen, Marianne Alleyne

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Insects demonstrate a wide diversity of microscopic cuticular and extra-cuticular features. These features often produce multifunctional surfaces which are greatly desired in engineering and material science fields. Among these functionalities, hydrophobicity is of particular interest and has gained recent attention as it often results in other properties such as self-cleaning, anti-biofouling, and anti-corrosion. We reviewed the historical and contemporary scientific literature to create an extensive review of known hydrophobic and superhydrophobic structures in insects. We found that numerous insects across at least fourteen taxonomic orders possess a wide variety of cuticular surface chemicals and physical structures that promote hydrophobicity. We discuss a few bioinspired design examples of how insects have already inspired new technologies. Moving forward, the use of a bioinspiration framework will help us gain insight into how and why these systems work in nature. Undoubtedly, our fundamental understanding of the physical and chemical principles that result in functional insect surfaces will continue to facilitate the design and production of novel materials.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number42
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2023


  • cuticle
  • surface topography
  • wettability
  • anti-wetting
  • hydrophobicity
  • self-cleaning
  • bioinspiration
  • hierarchical materials

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Insect Science


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