A scanning electron microscope image of a monarch butterfly wing.
Since a scanning electron microscope only collects a black and white image (representing intensity of electrons) the image must be colorized with photoshop. The colors are fairly close to the real colors of the wing.
The wing is composed of scales or platelets that in turn have a micro structure that creates turbulence as the wing moves through the air. The turbulence is responsible for decreasing drag on the wing and allows the butterfly to move with less energy.
Monarch Butterflies are native to North America where they migrate each spring from a wintering ground in Mexico. Each generation moves further north until the last generation gets the urge to migrate back to Mexico. Many Monarch butterflies are blown off course by storms. The butterflies in modern times have established themselves where ever there is a suitable host plant. Fairly recently monarchs have become established in New Zealand. Monarchs were not established in New Zealand until the caterpillar’s host plant of milkweed was accidentally released in the early 1900’s.
This post was written by Ted Kinsman for Photo Synthesis