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Armor on butterfly wings protects against heavy rain

Armor on butterfly wings protects against heavy rain

Raindrops keep falling on my head

Imagine getting hit by a falling bowling ball. That’s what scientists say it’s like for a butterfly to be struck by a raindrop.

Luckily, delicate things like leaves, bird feathers and butterfly wings are made to help reduce the impact. Butterfly wings have very tiny bumps that help shatter the drop. Their wings also have a waxy coating that helps repel the water and spread it out.

In addition to protecting the butterfly from injury, breaking up the water keeps the insect’s wings from getting cold. Butterflies need warm wings to fly. If they can’t fly, they are more likely to be eaten by a bird or lizard.

Repelling water as quickly as possible also is important because water is very heavy, making flight for insects and birds difficult.

Researchers at Cornell University figured all of this out by using a camera that could take a few thousand photos every second, allowing them to view the water’s impact in slow motion.

Learning more about how small insects like butterflies survive such a big hit could help scientists build similar features on something like an airplane wing to avoid ice buildup, which is dangerous.

Using nature to create solutions is called biomimicry, mimicking nature.

— Brett French,


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