General, Research, Technology

Why are some butterfly wings painted black?

To date, scientists know more than 158,000species of butterflies that differ from each other in body size and wing coloration. The patterns on the wings can consist of a variety of colors, but on the wings of almost any butterfly there are areas painted black. Recently, American scientists examined these areas under a microscope and found that they have a complex structure that almost does not reflect sunlight. Based on this, scientists announced that some sections of the wings of the butterflies are painted in the blackest color - blacker than the material created in 2014 vantablack (Vantablack). But why do butterflies need such dark sections of wings and why are they compared with the blackest material in the world?

Many butterflies are black, but scientists do not know exactly why

Vantablack (Vantablack) Is a material from many tiny tubes that absorbs 99.965% of the incident radiation in the form of sunlight, microwaves and radio waves. Particles of light called photonsfall on the material and get lost between the tangles of tiny tubes. They do not reflect back and ultimately simply heat the material, which looks like absolute blackness, a hole in space.


  • 1 Butterfly wing structure
  • 2 The darkest color on Earth
  • 3 The blackest car
  • 4 Where to buy the blackest paint?

Butterfly wing structure

Examining the wings of butterflies under a microscope,scientists have found that they are made up of tiny scales. It turned out that they are arranged much more complicated than the interlacing of the tubes of the wantablack material. If the artificial blackest material consists of vertical tubes growing on the foil, then the scales on the wings of the butterflies have the form of ridges, cells, ledges, sponges, and so on. It is noteworthy that the finer the surface of the cups, the less they reflect light and color the wings in the most black color. Smoother areas reflect up to 16 times more color and are not painted completely black, but have a dark brown hue. It is noteworthy that if there are light shades around dark areas, the black color seems even more intense.

Black sections of butterfly wings under the microscope

Why exactly butterflies need so darksections on the wings, scientists do not yet know. However, they have several assumptions. The first version says that black areas complement the patterns that are needed to attract females and males. The second version says that the dark color helps butterflies to hide from predators. And according to the third assumption, the dark parts of the wings are involved in the regulation of heat in the body of butterflies.

Parts of the wings of some butterflies are painted the blackest in the world.

The darkest color on Earth

According to ScienceAlert, scientists are stronglyInterested in that, despite its complex structure, the dark sections of the wings have a thickness of 3-4 nanometers. This is much less than the thickness of the wantablack material, which is positioned as an excellent coating for devices from which it is necessary to divert excess color. So, using wantablack in telescopes, scientists will be able to make them more powerful and easier to detect distant space objects for their further study.

Wantablack consists of vertical nanotubes that “grow” on aluminum foil

How complex structures on wingsbutterflies manage to maintain a minimum thickness, scientists still do not know. But when this mystery is revealed, they will be able to create something that is superior in thickness to the wantablack material. This will allow the use of the material in more miniature devices and, possibly, even reduce its cost.

Perhaps the material can even mask the plane so that it cannot be detected at night or with the help of radar.

The blackest car

The blackest paint is used not only inoptical devices like telescopes, but also in cars. In 2019, the German company BMW introduced the world to the car BMW X6, coated with Vantablack VBx2 paint. Thanks to the maximum black paint, the car acquired not only a stylish and austere appearance, but actually became shapeless. And the thing is that the body practically stopped reflecting light and the bends became invisible. We can say that the car has become like a black hole, which literally absorbs all radiation. Unfortunately, the car did not go into mass production, but in vain - there would obviously be a lot of people willing to buy a "space" vehicle.

In general, you can read more about the material vantablackread in our special material. In it, we told in detail the story of its creation and explained exactly how the most black color is obtained. Pay attention to the photos - the dark circles are supposedly added in Photoshop, but this is how real, truly black objects look like.