Jumped the gun…

I was a bit hasty in deciding that the scales on the Snowberry Clearwing had just turned transparent. As I discussed with Suzanne in the comments in the Hemaris diffinis post, it appears the scales did just fall off. Here is my evidence.

When I looked at the bottom of the jar, I could see tiny specks. I collected these from the jar where I kept the Clearwing. Each scale is less than a third of a millimeter. This is a view under the dissecting scope.

Here you can see the scales at 40X.

This is a scale at 400X. You can see the attachment point on the right end of the scale. Now this makes me wonder if other moths and butterflies have a transparent membranes under their scales. And why did the Snowberry Clearwing drop off only part of its scales? What advantage does this provide for this species?

With the questions I posed above, I decided to look at couple of moths that I had laying around. This one is from an Emerald moth. You can see that its scales are tightly packed and it has longer scales on the edge of the wing. Did it have a transparent membrane as well?

I put a solid object under the wing. I think yes, it does have transparent membrane as well.

It looks like the scale attach the same way as the Snowberry Clearwing!

I had one more moth on the shelf to try. It seems to be similarly arranged like the Emerald moth with tightly packed scales and longer fringe scales at the edges.

It also had a transparent membrane!

Here you can see the transparent membrane, a long scale and short scale. All pretty cool! Investigating is so much fun!

So my conclusion is that at least three different species of moths have a clear membrane and attach their scales in a similar way. Next time I run across a butterfly wing, I will look at it also. And thanks Suzanne for getting my curiosity going.

So before jumping the gun, maybe I should go a little slower like this Ornate Box Turtle. I found him on the afternoon walk today. I believe it is a new guy to our yard.

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Keep looking!


  1. Ive had moths leave what appeared to be a powdery substance on me. Scales eh? Very interesting. Thanks Mary and Suzanne.

  2. Does make you wonder what the adventage is to going to all the trouble of growing scales only to drop them so soon! Great exploration!

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