Butterfly Wings: Fascinating Besides BeautifulThere are several things that make butterfly wings remarkable besides their captivating beauty. Consider for example what we can learn from our macro photography pages: the colors of butterfly wings are made from tiny scales that are actually modified feathers.Hawk moths can beat their wings powerfully enough to hover in the air like hummingbirds. The world\'s largest moth is the Attacus Atlas of southeast Asia - a species within the Saturnidae family - and is almost as large as a pair of human hands - they are sometimes mistaken for bats at nighttime and the flapping of their wings is almost audible to human ears. The rare Queen Alexandra's Birdwing (Ornithoptera Alexandrae) from Papua New Guinea is the largest butterfly in the world - it sports a wingspan of ten inches. The scales of butterfly wings are flexible and self-cleaning! Butterfly wing colors often change hue - or even color - when wet. Pigments of the scales on their wings come either from chemical pigments such as melanin or from plants and waste that build up during metamorphosis. Butterfly wing scales are formed by bulbous, modified feathers. Depending on the spacing between the scales of a butterfly\'s wings, reflective light waves interface to the degree that some wavelengths are cancelled out while others are enhanced - like the patterns on a soap bubble. When emerging from the chrysalis, a butterflys wings are soft and flexible. If it does not extend the wings soon enough or wide enough, they will harden with folds that will cripple the butterfly and keep it from being able to fly the rest of its life. The drying process only takes about an hour. Each wing moves in a slightly circular fashion with the hind wing subtly behind the fore wing - which creates the fluttering effect of butterflies. The pattern of the veins vary from species to species but the patterns usually remain the same within each family. In Medieval times, butterflies were called flutter-bys because of their unusual flying patterns caused by this offset beating pattern. Their zigzag fluttering makes their flight path unpredictable and serves to protect them from predators. Butterflies need sunlight in order to fly - their bodies must maintain a temperature of about 53 degrees Fahrenheit or 30 degrees Celsius or their flying muscles will not function properly. Eyespots protect butterflies because birds will attack the eyespot first. Since butterflies can fly with up to 70% of their wings missing, a detached eyespot will still allow the butterfly to escape to safety. Some eyespots are hidden from view until the forewing is pushed forward so that red eyes appear and surprise the predator long enough to make an escape. The resting position of the wings of moths is referred to as airplane position. Pilots have reported seeing Monarch Butterflies as high as 10,000 feet! The Monarch (Danaus Plexippus) migrates 1,800 miles (3,000 km) annually - they fly from Mexico to a home east of the Rocky Mountains. Lepidoptera is derived from the Greek word for scale or wing because the most obvious feature that separates them from other insects is their scaled wings. Special bristles on the hind wings of moths hold the wings together for flight. In some species, these hooks are very strong and keep the wings from separating. Some very few butterflies have this same feature. Butterfly hind wings overlap (from underneath) the fore wings so that they can support the fore wings in flight. Most butterfly eggs are laid on specific host plants; however, some butterflies lay their eggs in flight - particularly butterflies whose caterpillars feed on grass. Some Nymphalidae species flap and glide to fly rather than flutter.