Butterfly beauty!

  • Dorit Hockman

My Foldscope has made me increasingly fascinated by insect wings, and so I was very excited when I happened across a couple deceased butterflies that were still in a good enough condition to mount and examine. The first was in a pile of dead leaves in my Cape Town garden, and the second met its end in the grill in the front of my rental car as I was driving from Port Elizabeth to Grahamstown. After reading Aaron’s post on butterfly wings, I am happy to be able to add to the Foldscope butterfly scale library, as well as expose some fascinating butterfly anatomy.

Butterfly 1: Garden Acraea (Acrea horta)

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This butterfly is common in South African gardens, as is easily identifiable by its transparent forewings, which are distinct from its bright orange and black hindwings. I mounted a piece of each wing.

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The scales on the forewing consist mostly of forked hair-like scales. Scattered amongst them are broader tile-shaped scales, which seemed more prominent near veins.

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On the hindwing, the forked scale scales are concentrated at the wing edge, while the rest of the wing is populated with wider tile-shaped scales, coloured black, orange or transparent. The veins form beautiful yellow stripes under the scales.

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Butterfly 2: most likely a Cabbage White (Pieris brassicae)

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These butterflies were introduced to South Africa, and are common in Cape Town gardens and in the Eastern Cape (where I was driving). I dissected and mounted several parts of the butterfly individually.

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The scales on the wings were a beautiful pearly white, streaked with brown and blue patches, as well as strange blue veins.

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And finally… the most exciting structure to see was the proboscis. I could clearly see the paired structure, patterned with green and brown, and ending in a beautiful tight spiral. I had no idea that the mouthparts looked this cool up close!

PS I just showed the Foldscope to group of honours students here at the University of Cape Town and they are SUPER excited about it!!! So expect some new Foldscope ambassadors soon…IMG_2507

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