How butterfly wings regulates a butterfly's temperature?

A animated butterfly flying.

Beauty with purpose

The sight of gorgeous butterfly wings often thrills young and old alike.

But those wings apparently are not only a beautiful means of butterfly transportation.

They also act as a sophisticated system of temperature control to keep the cold-blooded insect warm enough to function.

In fact, says “Natural History” magazine, “virtually all butterfly species, regardless of size and color, require thoracic [middle body] temperatures of 81° F [27° C] or higher to initiate controlled flight.”

A researcher found that the average thoracic temperature of 50 butterfly species during normal activity was 95° F (35° C), with various species ranging from 82° F to 105° F (28° to 41° C).

Hence, the cold-blooded butterfly keeps its body temperature in an operating range similar to warm-blooded mammals and birds (90°-104° F, 32°-40° C) by means of its wings.

Depending on species and circumstances, the wings may spread out flat to absorb maximum solar radiation, extend vertically or at an angle, or even act as a shield for the thorax to maintain the necessary temperature—quite an accomplishment for a lowly insect!