Insect Wings Under the Microscope

in Fascinating Insects10 months ago (edited)

Today, I'd like to share a few images taken of different insect wings when viewed under a microscope. While many insect wings may appear to be relatively similar to one another when viewed with the naked eye, once they are placed beneath a microscope, the great diversity of wing types and modifications quickly become apparent. The following images demonstrate some of the morphologic differences that present themselves on the wings of dragonflies, mosquitos, bees, and butterflies.

There are seven main types of insect wing:

  1. Membranous wings: thin transparent wings supported by tubular vein-like structures

  2. Fringed wings: small feather-like wings fringed with long setae (hair-like bristles)

  3. Scaly wings: wings covered with flattened, unicellular outgrowths responsible for imparting color, smoothing airflow during flight, and insulating against cold

  4. Halteres: modified wings shaped like small club=like knobs to be used as stabilizing organs during flight

  5. Tegmina: leathery, parchment-like wings used as protective tissue to cover membranous wings located beneath

  6. Elytra: thick, heavily sclerotized wings used to protect membranous wings and abdomen tissue located beneath

  7. Hemelytra: wings whose basal portion is leathery like that or tegmina and whose distal portion is membranous

Though I do not have examples of all of these wing types to share here, the wings shown include both membranous as well as scaly wings. The images of the wings shown were taken using a 1.5 MP AmScope eyepiece camera and ToupView microscopic visualization software. I hope that you enjoy!

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Dragonfly Wing

Dragonfly wings are membranous wings with extensive cross-venation patterns that run along the length of the wing structure. The veins that support the wing membrane cells of this particular sample also possessed minute, barb-like structures at infrequent and irregular intervals. This cross-venation as well as the barbs are shown below.

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Mosquito Wing

Though mosquitos themselves may be particularly annoying, as well as dangerous in terms of their capacity to act as disease vectors, their wings can be quite beautiful when placed beneath a microscope. Though the particular patterning differs from species to species, almost all mosquito wings possess overlapping scales as well as hair-like setae running along the veins that traverse their membranous wings.

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Bee Wing

While primarily membranous, the wings of bees are also adorned with setae that resemble hair-like whiskers when viewed under a microscope. These structures are thought to aid the bees in flight as well as in the transfer of pollen from one flower to another.

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Butterfly Wing

Butterfly wings are covered in unicellular scales that cover the surface area of the wing structures. These scales are responsible for imparting the vibrant colors butterflies are commonly known to possess as well as aid in thermoregulation. Scales not only insulate the insect from the cold, but darker scale patterns also provide heat by absorbing solar radiation.

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I hope that you enjoyed this microscopic view of a few fascinating insects!


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