Insect Wings

lacewingbutterfly wings

Typically, there are 2 pairs of wings in insects: one pair on the mesothorax and another pair on the metathorax. The wings are outgrowths of the exoskeleton and consist of a double layer of extremely thin cuticle, throughout which are interspersed numerous veins, as can be seen in the lacewing above.

In the Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths) the wings are covered by small overlapping scales which contain pigments that give wings their colour. In some species wing colour does not come from pigments but rather from the reflection of light on the the rigdes and grooves that make up the scales on their wings. When the light hits the scales at particular angles the wings may appear to be green or blue.

The wing itself does not contain muscles and flight is powered by muscles in the thorax that lever the wings up and down. The speed of wing movements varies greatly among species, ranging from two wingbeats per second to over one thousand beats.

Photos of lacewing and butterfly courtesy of Keith Power, Toowoomba, Qld.