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Winged Wonders

Close up photo of a bee flying.Apils mellifera (European Honey Bee)
Photo Copyright John C. Abbott

Insects are the first organisms on Earth that took to the air—about 310 million years ago! They remain one of only three extant groups of flying animals (along with bats and birds). The characteristics of insect flight are remarkable and still far superior to any attempts made by humans to replicate their capabilities. During the Permian Period (299 million years ago to 252 million years ago), the ancestors to dragonflies were the only aerial predators. Some had wing spans of nearly 30 inches, but otherwise looked very similar to their modern day counterparts. Insects also display a wide variety of colors and have evolved several ways of generating the colors we see. Some use pigments, while many others use microscopic structural differences in the exoskeleton to produce a spectrum of colors. Come see the diversity of wings and colors in insects and learn how flight has played a key role in the success of the most dominant group of animals on the planet.