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Name: Danielle
Status: student
Grade: K-3
Location:  N/A
Country: N/A
Date: March 2007

I am in grade one and doing a science project, I am wondering what the average number of colors each butterfly has. And what is the range of number of colors each butterfly have.

Your project you will find is very interesting. Generally, the "color"of butterfly wings is NOT due to the presence of a colored material in the wings, but rather, to the spacing of layers of butterfly wing tissue. So what you "see" as color differences is due to different spacings of the layers of butterfly wing tissue. You can see the same effect from gratings that are available from suppliers of materials for science projects such as Edmund Scientific (This is not a recommendation of this particular company, but just a suggestion.) There are other suppliers of similar optical gratings that you can find on the Internet.

The different "colors" you see are due to the various spacing of colorless layers, not due to the presence of dyes or pigments. The number of colors each butterfly has is very wide from red to blue.

Vince Calder

More than you can count! Just like you can mix blue and yellow to make green, butterflies can mix many colors in their wings. Every butterfly is slightly different, so the color range is as broad as can be!

Butterflies can also see colors that people can't see. There's a kind of light called "ultraviolet" that people can't see, but some birds and insects can see. Butterflies have colors we can see, and they also have "ultraviolet" colors on their wings that they can see but we can't. So even if you wanted to count all the colors on a butterfly wing, you wouldn't be able to!

Burr Zimmerman

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