Stunning Glasswing Butterflies Have Wings That Look Like Transparent Windows

Glasswing Butterfly With Transparent Wings On A Leaf

Photo: Stock Photos from Bahadir Yeniceri/Shutterstock

The glasswing butterfly (scientifically known as Greta oto) might be the most beautiful bug you have never heard of! Their delicate wings have a frame of orange and white colors similar to the monarch butterfly. However, the rest of their fancy wings are made of flawless clear panes that look like windows. A recent video from KQED provides a “Deep Look” at these special creatures. You will discover that their gorgeous wings serve two purposes: the white stripe warns predators of toxicity, and the clear panes allow the butterfly to disappear into its surrounding (making it almost invisible).

What makes these clear wing panes so special? From their early caterpillar stage, glasswing butterflies lack pigment in their chitin, a material in insect exoskeletons and butterfly wings. Without pigment, the wings are colorless and—because of their thinness—transparent. To further protect against predators, the wings are equipped with many tiny nanopillars (wax towers which form a rough texture upon microscopic inspection of a wing's surface). A rough texture prevents the surface from being reflective, giving the illusion of almost “empty” panes.

These special insects are native to Central and South America; but like other butterfly species, they migrate seasonally, sometimes even appearing in Florida. They can travel at speeds up to eight miles per hour and are stronger than typical butterflies. Scientists have recognized how special this species is. According to Phys Org, the nanopillars of glasswing butterflies have inspired Caltech scientists to improve the functionality of eye implants.

Have you ever seen a glasswing butterfly?

Glasswing Butterfly With Transparent Wings On A Leaf

Photo: Stock Photos from Pavel1964/Shutterstock

These little marvels are feats of both beauty and nature's masterful engineering!

Two Glasswing Butterflies On A Leaf

Photo: Stock Photos from Albert Beukhof/Shutterstock

Their wings look like transparent windows, rendering them as nearly invisible.

Glasswing Butterfly With Transparent Wings On A Leaf

Photo: Stock Photos from Darkdiamond67/Shutterstock

Glasswing Butterfly With Transparent Wings Spread Open

Photo: Stock Photos from Jearu/Shutterstock

Take a closer look at glasswing butterfly in action:

h/t: [Laughing Squid]

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Madeleine Muzdakis

Madeleine Muzdakis is a Contributing Writer at My Modern Met and a historian of early modern Britain & the Atlantic world. She holds a BA in History and Mathematics from Brown University and an MA in European & Russian Studies from Yale University. Madeleine has worked in archives and museums for years with a particular focus on photography and arts education. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys hiking, film photography, and studying law while cuddling with her cat Georgia.
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