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Allan designs and plants flowering gardens in Montreal, Zone 5 [USDA Zone 4] .

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The Multi Colored Insect Wings That Flutter About in Our Gardens

Isn’t it marvelous how reading a garden blog can sometimes take us on an unexpected journey? A short while ago, Joseph, who blogs at Greensparrow Gardens, drew readers’ attention to an article posted on line by Wired magazine that discussed how preparing meals from scratch might help fight obesity. Now Wired is a blog that I would never stumble upon, on my own. I didn’t think that I was the designated audience for it because I am not a scientist or an engineer. Nevertheless, I was intrigued by the topic, linked to it and instantly became a fan.

Recently, Wired posted an interesting article titled “Amazing World of Insect-Wing Color Discovered”, by Brandon Keim, that was inspired by a scientific paper written by entomologists at the University of Lund. The post deals with the seemingly transparent wings of insects that appear colorful, in psychedelic patterns, when observed against a black background. The colorations of the graphics riveted me to the page and I could not let go of this amazing imagery without sharing it.

Fruit fly against white and black backgrounds. /PNAS

The researchers believe the colorations have specific functions, especially for mating. It is expected that the patterns will also assist scientists to distinguish between species that are otherwise difficult to differentiate.

Composite image of fly against white and black backgrounds. /PNAS.

Most entomologists study transparent wings against a white background that makes them almost invisible. That is how, for centuries, scientists have missed the colorful display.

Patterns in fly wings (top half) and wasp wings (bottom half). /PNAS

Mr. Keim sourced the photographs and information from “Stable Structural Color Patterns Displayed on Transparent Insect Wings” by Ekaterina Shevtsova, Christer Hansson, Daniel H. Janzen, and Jostein Kjærandsen. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Vol. 108 No. 1, January 4, 2011. To read his article in its entirety, at Wired, click here. 

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Reader Comments (7)

Very pretty and surprising. Thanks for sharing!

January 5, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterVW

Thanks for letting us know about this true wonder of nature---how beautiful.

Allan, this is amazing! My students would have loved this, young and always amazed by the world of living things.


January 5, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterEileen

I e-mailed these images to my grand kids and encouraged them to create their own wing designs.

January 6, 2011 | Registered CommenterAllan

Wow!These are so so cool.......Thank,s for great post.

January 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterIthaca flower delivery

There is so much more beauty that surrounds us than we are aware of. This was a treat; thanks for sharing it.

January 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJean

Really cool, Allan. I'm a long time fan of Wired - a great resource, actually, and they are rather fearless, politically and scientifically. Set up the way you've depicted it, it all makes such imminent sense from a survival viewpoint..

January 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSteve

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