A New Method for Quantifying Color of Insects

Matthew S. Lehnert, Murat O. Balaban, Thomas C. Emmel


We describe a method to quantify color in complex patterns on insects, using a combination of standardized illumination and image analysis techniques. Two color comparisons were investigated: (1) the percentage of blue in the submarginal band of the hindwing in yellow and dark morph females of Papilio glaucus L., and (2) the percentage of orange hues in the wings of 2 putative subspecies of Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, P. g. glaucus L. and P. g. maynardi Gauthier. Live specimens were photographed in a light-box with standardized lighting and a color standard. Digital images were processed in LensEye® software to determine the percentage of selected colors. No significant differences were found in the percentage of blue between yellow and dark morph females, but the percentage of orange hues between P. g. glaucus and P. g. maynardi differed significantly. Color quantification can be a useful tool in studies that require color analysis.

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