Scanning electron microscopic (SEM) moiré method was used to study the surface structure of three kinds of butterfly wings: Papilio maackii Menetries, Euploea midamus (Linnaeus), and Stichophthalma howqua (Westwood). Gratings composed of curves with different orientations were found on scales. The planar characteristics of gratings and some other planar features of the surface structure of these wings were revealed, respectively, in terms of virtual strain. Experimental results demonstrate that SEM moiré method is a simple, nonlocal, economical, effective technique for determining which grating exists on one whole scale, measuring the dimension and the whole planar structural character of the grating on each scale, as well as characterizing the relationship between gratings on different scales of each butterfly wing. Thus, the SEM moiré method is a useful tool to assist with characterizing the structure of butterfly wings and explaining their excellent properties.
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