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Welcome the Butterfly Innovation!

Updated on September 11, 2015

Something interesting is that, out of all the animal kingdom, one of the species we don’t hear much about is butterflies. In fact, some people think that the most amazing thing about butterflies is their ability to transform from wimpy little caterpillars to gorgeous and graceful butterflies, when there’s actually a lot more to learn about them.

With time, scientists have discovered that butterflies are much more complex that we can see at plain sight. Rigorous studies have revealed aspects previously unknown about butterflies and now we are making advances in technology based on the amazing pattern they have.

Intricate butterfly wings

Yes, they are extremely beautiful.

But there’s a lot more we didn’t know about them a couple of years ago. Butterfly wing colors are product of what scientists call structural coloration or schemochromes, which basically consists in overlaying scales that interfere with visible light.

This means that the colors we see on their wings are not actually their true colors. Each scale reflects light individually to create a full pattern of iridescent hues. This means that each scale has a different color and together they ‘complete a picture’. It works the same way a mosaic does, small bits of color that work together to form a more defined and complex pattern.

Survival Mechanism

There is something that has been known for a while, but scientist are still intrigued by. Butterflies live to tell the tale because of their wing pattern. Some species, such as Monarch Butterflies, have striking colors that help them scare off predators by signaling they are venomous and should not be eaten. The Viceroy Butterfly and other species mimic their colors and patterns to avoid being eaten by predators that know better.

Still others, such as the Bycyclus Anynanahave “eyespots” in their wings that mimic predators’ eyes to scare them off. They also have a mechanism that allows them to change the color and size of their eyespots as to confuse their predators and, therefore, avoid attacks.

There is a lot more to butterflies than meet the eye, and now science can make the best of their intrinsic scale color patterns for our benefit.

The Secret to Everlasting Paint

Scientists at the London Natural History Museum believe to have reached a breakthrough from a butterfly wing, which could lead to a paint that never fades by growing cells. The team directed by Professor Andrew Parker hopes that soon enough we’ll have a formula for everlasting paint by copying the intrinsic luminous pattern of the butterflies’ scaled wings.

“It’s going to be a couple of years until we have something that is usable [in the cosmetic and paint industry], but it’s going to be very exciting. It is especially hard to keep white paint clean and bright, so this would certainly help.”

Win the fight against Bank Fraud

The University of Cambridge revealed their own findings regarding butterfly wings as well. Their research has had the purpose of using the iridescent nano-structures found in their wings to create credit cards that will make bank frauds “harder to forge” according to Professor Kolle.

If this is only a small part of what we can do with what we have learn about them, what will the future be like? Welcome to the marvelous world of butterflies.


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