INCREDIBLE INSECTS: A Celebration of Insect Biology

Colors

The Importance of Coloration

An insect’s color can have many biological functions. Color patterns can be used to attract mates, hide from predators, establish territories, or ambush prey. Insects have an extraordinarily diverse array of color patterns, but all are produced by two simple mechanisms. Colors are produced in two different ways: by chemical pigments or by microscopic structures on the surface of the insect.

Structural Coloration
Structural colors are generated by minute and intricate ridges and valleys on the animal’s exoskeleton that absorb and reflect light of different wavelengths. Blues, greens, and metallic colors are always produced in this way. White and silver can also be the result of structural coloration.

Aphrissa Statira ultraviolet colors

Aphrissa Statira ultraviolet colors

Phoebis philea ultraviolet colors

Phoebis philea ultraviolet colors

Ultraviolet Colors
Insects cannot see red but can see ultraviolet as a color.
Some butterflies have brilliant ultraviolet color patterns that we cannot see.
They use these ultraviolet colors to attract mates and for territorial displays among males.

These butterflies have ultraviolet color patterns that are invisible to us but can be detected by some photographic cameras. Dark color mean UV light is absorbed and bright color means UV is reflected.

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