Dragonfly wings are fascinating

Dragonfly wings are fascinating to cultures around the world, with people attributing both positive and negative connotations to their appearance. Me, I’m just fascinated by the structure of the wings, and the iridescent colors that they create. Thanks to the internet, I was able to go down a rabbit hole about dragonfly wings. Here is what I learned.

Herald rectangular landscape format monoprint collage dragonfly blue blue-green Prussian blue wing segment calm peace voronoi cyanotypes vintage maps Elizabeth Busey 24 x 36 in
Herald. Monoprint collage with cyanotypes and vintage maps. 24 x 36in image size (36 x 47in framed), $900 ($1,300 framed).

Dragonflies are ancient

Large ancestors of dragonflies existed 325 million years ago, making them older than dinosaurs. These precursors of our much smaller modern-day insects had up to a 27-inch wingspan, wider than my current desktop screen. Today, dragonflies live on every continent except Antarctica and in many different climates. Dragonflies are considered harbingers of stress in ecosystems.

cat sitting on drawing table exact knife collage materials
Gingersnap likes to supervise my choices for each segment of the dragonfly wing.

Dragonfly wing structure is mathematical and useful

If you are a fan of my work, you will immediately see that the structure of a dragonfly wing is explained by Voronoi diagrams. This mathematical principle explains everything from leaves to bubble packing and is used in urban planning. You can read how I started my fascination with the Voronoi diagram here.  

Dragonfly wings are also captivating because their colors are ever-changing. Made from extremely thin layers of a naturally occuring polymer called chitin ( “kite-in”), we can see the segments as clear or an iridescent color. Most of the ones I see appear blue, but there are other species where the wings sometimes appear black

I was surprised to learn that the chitin of dragonfly wings is an inspiration for Alzheimer’s detection research. With the naked eye, the surface of the segments appear glass-smooth, but they are in fact covered with tiny spikes. Scientists are using the spike’s light-scattering properties to look for levels of beta amyloids in the spinal fluid of people with early-stage Alzheimer’s.

In situ image Herald rectangular landscape format monoprint collage dragonfly blue blue-green Prussian blue wing segment calm peace voronoi cyanotypes vintage maps Elizabeth Busey 24 x 36 in
Highlighting a calm bedroom, the blues of Herald seem to glow. Herald. Monoprint collage with cyanotypes and vintage maps, 24 x 36 in (36 x 47in framed)

While I find dragonfly wings fascinating from mathematical and scientific perspectives, their tiny cells all ordered together are calming. Herald (above) is a study in all things blue, with varying tones and hues all existing in a tranquil space. Everyone needs some place to be peaceful.

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