Date:September 22, 2020

Glasswing Butterflies Have Incredible Wings That Look Like Transparent Windows

The Glasswinged butterfly (Greta Oto) is a beautiful brush-footed butterfly and is a member of the: subfamily Danainae, tribe Ithomiini, subtribe Godyridina. Greta Oto adults exhibit a number of interesting behaviors, such as long migrations and lekking (gathering of males for competitive mating displays). The wings are translucent, with a wingspan of 5.6 to 6.1 cm (2.2 to 2.4 in). Its most common English name is glass winged butterfly, and its Spanish name is “espejitos”, which means “little mirrors.”

The Glasswinged butterfly gets its name because the tissue between the veins of its wings looks like glass, as it lacks the colored scales found in other butterflies. Below you will find a gallery of 10 stunning photos of these beautiful creatures. Enjoy!

More info: Field Guide to the Wildlife of Costa Rica

Photo: Stock Photos from Pavel1964/Shutterstock

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 clearwing 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.

Photo: Stock Photos from Albert Beukhof/Shutterstock

Photo: Stock Photos from Darkdiamond67/Shutterstock

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.

Photo: Stock Photos from Jearu/Shutterstock

Since their dull wings reflect barely any light, Glasswings can stay invisible in plain sight.

“What makes Glasswings special isn’t their luster, but their ability to fade away,” the narrator of the Deep Look video concludes.

Researchers are hoping to use what they learn about Glasswing’s anti-glare wings to create “new artificial anti-glare coatings,” according to the Deep Look video’s accompanying article. The coatings could help with light bouncing off phones and glasses. Research about how the Glasswing reduces glare could even help make solar panels more efficient by finding out how to reduce the amount of light that bounces off panels.

Photograph by Swamibu on Flickr

Photograph by Eddy Van 3000 on Flickr

Photograph by Swamibu on Flickr

Photograph by David Fre on Flickr

Photograph via butterflies.co.za

Photo: Stock Photos from Bahadir Yeniceri/Shutterstock

via Gfycat

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