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Their brightly colored liveries are already particularly beautiful from afar, when we see them in flight. But beneath the microscope lens, the wings of the lepidopterans appear even more hypnotic and wonderful: luckily for us, Linden Gledhill, a biochemist and photographer, was the author of this series of kaleidoscopic macros.

In his shots, magnified up to 7 times, the scales of the wings of butterflies and moths are visible in all their iridescent beauty, and take on almost the consistency of a fabric: an aerial and light "parade", whose designer is, still once, Mother Nature.

In the photo, a detail of the wings of a "Birdwing" butterfly (gen. Trogonoptera, Troides, Ornithoptera) native to Australia and Southeast Asia.

Gledhill said he discovered, thanks to a microscope, a "second level of beauty" in the wings of the lepidoptera. The photographer started the series using a common camera "equipped with old microscope lenses"; but given the attractiveness of the subjects, he soon decided to switch to something more professional, and now uses an Olympus BH-2 microscope with LED lighting and a high-speed flash.

The charm of the wings of lepidopterans is hidden in the very etymology of the word, from lepid, scaglia, and pteròn, ala: literally, "wings with scales". The tiny formations, placed on the wing in close formation, like the tiles of a roof, serve to seduce the partner, frighten the predators and blend in as much as possible in the surrounding habitat.

In the photo, a detail of the wings of the Madagascar comet moth (Argema mittrei), so named for the long red ends of its wings.

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The livery of one of the most colorful and admired moths in the world, the urania of Madagascar (Chrysiridia rhipheus). Unlike the wings of many other Lepidoptera, those of this insect do not take the iridescent colors from chemical pigments, but from the diffraction of light made by the microscopic curved scales that cover them. For this reason, they are at the center of dozens of optical studies.

An urania from Madagascar again. The conformation of the iridescent "lamellas" on the wings of some butterflies or moths is currently being studied by groups of scientists who hope, through biomimicry, to produce dyes or cosmetics with a metallic effect, or very thin new-generation monitors, consisting of photonic crystals able to change color depending on the orientation with respect to the light source.

The characteristic trait of a Morphus butterfly, much loved for the iridescent blue color of its wings. Most of the photos of Linden that we admire here have been enlarged seven times, although its instrumentation allows for different levels of magnification.

This, for example, has been enlarged 50 times to allow us to catch an otherwise invisible detail: a grain of pollen left entangled in the wings of a butterfly Protographium agesilaus, native to central and south America (we see it here life-size).

While the butterflies feed on the nectar of the flowers, their body gets dirty with pollen which is involuntarily transported to the next flower: it is the mechanism of pollination, which allows most of the flowers to reproduce.

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The wings of a Cithaerias aurorina, a moth originating from Peru with pinkish lower wings and equipped with two "eye" shaped decorations.

The wings of the Cithaerias aurorina are transparent and it is possible to see one of the two "faces" through the other. Even under the microscope: in this photo, the white spot on one of the two wings is facing us. The red lamellas, on the other hand, are on the other side of the wing, but we see them in transparency.

The wings of a Graphium weiskei arfakensis, a butterfly endemic to New Guinea. The fabric of the butterfly wings is made up of various nerve fibers and some small tubes, the tracheas, which are used to transport oxygen.

Under the microscope, one of the most famous moths: the monarch butterfly, famous for its "epic" migrations that last thousands of kilometers (a photogallery on this record-breaking journey).

Another variety of blue butterfly Morpho, a Morpho zephrytes.

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The spotted wings of a butterfly Troides hypolitus sangirensis.

A rarity of Sulawesi (Indonesia): the Papilio blumei fruhstorferi, known for its black wings furrowed with green water bands.

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In his shots, magnified up to 7 times, the scales of the wings of butterflies and moths are visible in all their iridescent beauty, and take on almost the consistency of a fabric: an aerial and light "parade", whose designer is, still once, Mother Nature.
In the photo, a detail of the wings of a "Birdwing" butterfly (gen. Trogonoptera, Troides, Ornithoptera) native to Australia and Southeast Asia.