When you touch a butterfly, you get dust on your hands. Ever wondered what it really is? I did, but never thought much about it, before. Butterflies and moths belonging to the genus Lepidoptera, meaning scale-wing, are named referring to the scale cell structures on its wings.
Butterfly has four wings; a pair of forewings and a pair of hind-wings. These wings are composed of two very fine membrane layers (chitonous) which are supported and nourished by tubular veins (also functions in breathing). Tiny sockets in these membranes hold each individual scale, providing further support to the delicate wing. The scales are arranged in such a pattern, overlapping each other like shingles on a roof. Butterfly wings will not be structurally sound and strong if you remove a bunch of them, thus harming the small insect. Ridges of our fingerprint, or oil on our skin, is more than enough to pry these wing scales loose, even with the slightest (caring) touch. The dust that comes off, when you touch a butterfly is its wing scales. Be careful next time you wish to touch it! You could endanger it’s life without meaning to harm at all.
The hindwing contains scent scales, which are modified wing scales, that release pheromones. This chemical, called androconia, attract opposite sex of the “same species”. There are often ultraviolet coloured patterns on the wings that are only visible to other butterflies.
Lovely patterns on butterfly wings are not only beautiful, but wonderful. Fluorescent patches on the wings functions similar to Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) which are found in everything from computer and television screens to traffic light. A LED developed at MIT uses two-dimensional photonic crystals with layered structures for controlling of emission direction. This was a huge step up in performance, compared to previous standards of LED. Researchers have shown that butterflies use an identical method for communicating to each other over long distance.
The beautifully coloured wings of butterflies manipulate light using engineering tricks similar to those found in digital displays. The wing scales which work like photonic crystals, absorb ultraviolet light and re-emit it. The re-emitted light interacts with fluorescent pigments to produce beautiful colours.
There’s so much science behind the beauty of butterfly.
Dedicated to those of you who adore butterfly!!!
Image taken from here.