Anyone can see that butterflies are beautiful, but when their colorful wings are magnified, their beauty takes on another level — one that’s clearly visible in these 36 macro images captured by Shutterstock contributors.
Both moths and butterflies belong to the Lepidoptera family, meaning that their magnificent, detailed wings are comprised of hundreds of tiny scales, visible only at extreme magnification. The scales, which are loosely attached to the wings and vary greatly in color from species to species, fall into one of three buckets: hair-like, blade-like, and other.
In these images, photographed by contributors in Thailand, Germany, Italy, Poland, and elsewhere, you can see a variety of colorful butterfly and moth wing types, captured at several different magnifications. Scroll through the bright patterns below, and explore all the macro photos in our full butterfly wing collection.