I am an artist who uses butterflies in my work, and I am often asked what colors are butterfly wings. The question is a little vague as butterfly wings come in many colors ranging from brown to pink and from green to blue. Here you can find the answer to the question “What colors are butterfly wings?” If you are interested in ordering a custom piece of art please visit my website at www.butterflyart.net or email me at email@example.com
Both these butterflies (the viceroy and monarch) are black and orange or red. Which color is the monarch?
It’s a trick question: both butterflies are orange!
Butterfly wings are not solid colors. They are mostly translucent, so they can’t be either black or orange. The butterfly’s body is underneath the wings, so you can see through them to the body below.
The viceroy butterfly has a black body with some orange on its side, so from above it looks black with orange streaks, just like the monarch butterfly.
Butterfly wings are among the most beautiful of nature’s creations. Their colors are vibrant and, in some cases, resemble an artist’s palette. If you’ve ever wondered what causes this brilliant coloration, you’re not alone. Scientists also have studied butterfly wings in hopes of understanding the phenomenon.
For more than a century, scientists believed that pigments called carotenoids were responsible for creating the vivid hues found on butterfly and moth wings. These chemicals give rise to yellow and red shades, which are easily identified on the wings of certain species.
But researchers have discovered that these carotenoids only account for about 10 to 20 percent of a butterfly’s wing coloration. The rest comes from a different family of pigments called pterins.
The function of pterins remains unclear, but they seem to play an important role in providing camouflage for butterflies and moths as they flutter through the forest or grasslands.
While scientists continue to study this intriguing aspect of butterfly life, we can admire their beauty in our own backyards!
Some of the colors are just iridescent. Iridescence is not a property of the wing itself but of the material in the wing that reflects light. Iridescent butterflies have no color pigments at all; they don’t need any, because they produce their own light.
In other butterflies, the scales on the wings themselves play a role in producing color. The scales are made of chitin, which is light-colored, so it’s natural for them to reflect light. In some cases, though, the scales are colored with pigments. They come in two basic types: melanins and pterins. Melanins are dark brown or black; pterins are reds and yellows.
The arrangement of these colored scales is what gives different butterflies their distinctive patterns. There are always several layers of scales on each wing – some large and flat, some small and raised – and each layer has its own pattern. The whole wing may look quite different from close up than from far away.
Eyespots on butterfly wings are often used to startle predators. Many butterflies have some sort of eyespot pattern on the upper side of their wings. Usually it is a round “bull’s-eye” type spot near the tip of the wing. It may be a solid color or a set of concentric rings.
Tiger, comma and swallowtail butterflies have large eyespots near the center of each hindwing. The spots are usually striped with different colors around the outside. The eye-like center is often blank or contains only a thin line. These dramatic patterns may be meant to scare would-be predators away before they get close enough to notice that butterflies are actually quite tasty.
The eyespots on swallowtail butterfly wings might be meant more to startle than to scare away predators. The butterfly uses its long, thin tail as leverage in flight and must spread its wings wide open so that it can fly forward rapidly enough to remain airborne. A predator might mistake this partially opened position for an easy meal and rush in for the kill only to discover that a tasty swallowtail is much less easy to catch than it looks!
The answer is: “it depends.”
It depends on the species, and on the part of the wing, and on the angle at which you are looking at it. It also depends on your definition of color.
Tiger Swallowtails get their name from a pattern that looks like stripes of yellow and black paint. You can see this effect even better if you photograph them against a white background – but only if you do it in bright light, because then the butterfly’s dark parts won’t absorb so much light that all you will see is a white blur. The swallowtail’s wings contain pigments called structural colorants, which means that what you see is not due to pigments (pigments are in your eye, for example) but rather to how the surface of each wing is structured.
Bees can see UV light, and butterflies have UV markings to advertise their toxicity in the UV range. Another reason butterflies are brightly colored is to attract mates and intimidate predators; some species rely more on one or the other function. And some species have darker patterns that they use as camouflage – either looking like another creature they want to be mistaken for, such as a wasp or a leaf, or looking like something so horrible that a predator will avoid them
There are a number of butterfly species in which the male is dramatically different in coloration from the female. For example, in some species males have wings that are black and white while females have orange and black wings.
In these cases, many people suppose that the bright colors of the males are used to attract females. However, new research suggests that there is another reason for the differences in color – temperature regulation. The temperature of a butterfly’s environment affects both its growth rate and its wing pattern. Since males usually live in warmer climates than females, the warmer temperatures in the males’ habitat cause their wing patterns to change earlier than in females. As a result of this change in wing patterns, males are able to develop faster than females when they emerge from their pupae and take flight as adults.
To test this hypothesis, researchers took captive butterflies (Heliconius melpomene) from a variety of climates and placed them all on top of leaves at average temperatures for those climates. This left the butterflies with no control over temperature but allowed them to choose whether or not to bask in full sunlight. Not surprisingly, all of the butterflies chose to bask when it was sunny although they did so at different times during the day. The researchers then examined both male and female wings