Living With Fewer Wing Veins


Eulophid Parasitoid
Note reduced wing veins
Photo: Univ. FL

Insect wings are flat acellular cuticular structures with rigid tubes for support. The wings of insects are formed from two layers of cells that secrete the upper and lower wing cuticle and then go away. With the cells no longer in the way, the upper and lower wing surfaces fuse together except in sclerotized (hardened) areas that remain separated and form hollow tubes called wing veins.

Wing veins perform many functions in an insects wing. The tubes deliver moisture to the wings to keep the cuticle pliable and resistant to breakage. Dried insect wings are brittle and easily shattered. Wing veins enable the wing to fold. For example, grasshopper hind wings fold like a fan. Veins support and stiffen the wing and control the wing shape when flapping.

Insects with large wings typically have more veins than insects with small wings. In insects with the smallest wings, the wing veins are often reduced in number. One vein can be adequate to deliver moisture, provide stiffness and control the wing shape. Tiny wings are less apt to become entangled in the environment, so veins for folding are not necessary. For a variety of reasons, the smallest insects typically have tiny wings with reduced venation.

About jjneal

Jonathan Neal is an Associate Professor of Entomology at Purdue University and author of the textbook, Living With Insects (2010). This blog is a forum to communicate about the intersection of insects with people and policy. This is a personal blog. The opinions and materials posted here are those of the author and are in no way connected with those of my employer.
This entry was posted in by jjneal, Taxonomy. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s