General, Research, Technology

Why don't butterfly wings break under heavy raindrops?

Almost all people hate annoying flies,vile cockroaches and other insects. But many people like butterflies with multi-colored and patterned wings - some people even collect them. Today, science knows more than 200,000 species of these lepidoptera creatures, and they still remain interesting objectsfor scientific research. Have you ever wondered why the fragile wings of butterflies do not break under the blows of heavy raindrops? Scientists say that these strikes are as if a bowling ball fell on a person from a great height. Researchers knew about the strength of the impact of raindrops, but they could not answer exactly how the wings of the insects withstand them. Recently, a secret has been uncovered.

Perhaps you are now facing the most beautiful butterfly in the world - Morpho Peleides (Morpho peleides)

Lepidoptera - these are insects on the wings of which there is a layer of chitinous scales. This group of creatures includes butterflies, moths and moths.

Butterfly wings

How butterflies survive under heavy rainswas told in the scientific journal PNAS. According to scientists, the rate of rain drops is very high - particles of water with a diameter of 5 millimeters can accelerate to 10 meters per second. The weight of the raindrops is also very significant and in some cases equals 0.12 grams. Now imagine that such raindrops fall on the fragile wings of a very common butterfly-urticaria (Aglais urticae) in Russia. According to the laws of physics, drops should break wings and mortally injure an insect, but this does not happen. Why?

Yes, all these butterflies that fly across Russia are called urticaria. And their caterpillars develop on nettle leaves

The secret lies in the structure of the wings - naturemade sure that some of the most important parts of the body of the butterflies were protected from external influences. As you might have guessed, butterflies are called lepidopteran insects because their wings are covered with scales. In childhood, many of us caught butterflies and ran fingers on their wings - noticed that there was a plaque on them? Some people think that this is the pollen of plants, but in fact, these are the very scales that play an important, almost decisive role in the life of butterflies. Little we did not know this and could not even imagine that butterflies with worn wings did not fly for long and eventually died.

This is how the wings of butterflies look under a microscope

Natural protection against water

So, the wings of butterflies are covered with scales in the shape ofridges, cells, protrusions and sponges, but flat - most. These scales form beautiful patterns on the wings of butterflies, participate in regulating the temperature of their bodies, and also repel the water falling on them. This is the whole secret - large raindrops cannot harm the wings of butterflies, because they repel water. This begs the following question - how exactly do flakes affect water and how effective is it?

A sudden fact about butterflies: females of the common carpail (Orgyia antiqua) do not have wings and they cannot fly

To find out all this, a group of biologists underled by Professor Seung-Kim Kim (Seungho Kim) conducted an experiment. They arranged the leaves, feathers and wings of butterflies on a flat surface. The first two objects were necessary so that scientists had something to compare the effectiveness of scales in terms of the destruction of water droplets. On all these surfaces, from a height of two meters, drops of water were dumped. Everything that happened was recorded on a camera that shoots video at a frequency of a thousand frames per second.

For butterflies, heavy raindrops are like balloons filled with water. But they are protected by needles

After the experiment, scientists and us withYou have become aware of another interesting fact about butterflies. But this is not the most interesting thing that can be told about them. In March 2020, I published material that the wings of some butterflies are painted in the blackest color, which absorbs 99% of sunlight. According to the researchers, the dark areas on the wings help the males of the butterflies attract the females. There is also speculation that black patches help insects regulate body temperature.

If you are interested in the news of science and technology, subscribe to our channel in Yandex. Dzen. There you will find materials that have not been published on the site!

If butterfly wings are not interesting to you, I recommendto pay attention to the material about their “sound camouflage”, which helps them hide from bats. At the same time, you will learn how bats hunt in an unusual way and what they eat in general.