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QX3 Digital Image Gallery
Rheinberg Illumination

Butterfly Wing Scales

Butterflies and moths are unique insects partly because their entire bodies are covered by microscopic scales that aid in flight, waterproofing, and coloring. The photomicrographs below are high magnification views of several butterfly wing scales images under Rheinberg illumination using red and blue gels.

Over 160,000 species of butterflies and moths together comprise a large order of insects named Lepidoptera, which is Greek for wing scale. There are a number of similarities and differences between butterflies and moths. Most butterflies are brightly colored and fly during the day while a majority of moths have a dull and drab appearance and usually fly by night. Butterflies tend to hold their wings upright over their backs when resting, but most moths spread their wings flat near the surface when not flying. These insects also differ in the construction of their antennae. Butterfly antennae are usually long and thin and knobbed at the tip whereas moth antennae can be much more complex and often resemble feathers.

Butterfly Wing at 200x Magnification

Butterfly Wing at 200x Magnification

Rheinberg illumination digital images were recorded using a reflected light configuration consisting of auxiliary fiber optics light tubes covered with colored gels (oblique specimen illumination). Another, much darker gel was placed over the frosted diffusion screen to serve as the background color.

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