Antifungal versus antibacterial defence of insect wings

Elena P Ivanova, Denver P Linklater, Arturo Aburto-Medina, Phuc Le, Vladimir A Baulin, Huu Khuong Duy Nguyen, Roger Curtain, Eric Hanssen, Gediminas Gervinskas, Soon Hock Ng, Vi Khanh Truong, Pere Luque, Georg Ramm, Han A B Wösten, Russell J Crawford, Saulius Juodkazis, Shane Maclaughlin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


HYPOTHESIS: The ability exhibited by insect wings to resist microbial infestation is a unique feature developed over 400 million years of evolution in response to lifestyle and environmental pressures. The self-cleaning and antimicrobial properties of insect wings may be attributed to the unique combination of nanoscale structures found on the wing surface.

EXPERIMENTS: In this study, we characterised the wetting characteristics of superhydrophobic damselfly Calopteryx haemorrhoidalis wings. We revealed the details of air entrapment at the micro- and nano scales on damselfly wing surfaces using a combination of spectroscopic and electron microscopic techniques. Cryo-focused-ion-beam scanning electron microscopy was used to directly observe fungal spores and conidia that were unable to cross the air-liquid interface. By contrast, bacterial cells were able to cross the air-water interface to be ruptured upon attachment to the nanopillar surface. The robustness of the air entrapment, and thus the wing antifungal behaviour, was demonstrated after 1-week of water immersion. A newly developed wetting model confirmed the strict Cassie-Baxter wetting regime when damselfly wings are immersed in water.

FINDINGS: We provide evidence that the surface nanopillar topography serves to resist both fungal and bacterial attachment via a dual action: repulsion of fungal conidia while simultaneously killing bacterial cells upon direct contact. These findings will play an important role in guiding the fabrication of biomimetic, anti-fouling surfaces that exhibit both bactericidal and anti-fungal properties.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)886-897
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Colloid and Interface Science
Early online date18 Jun 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2021


  • Antibacterial
  • Antifungal
  • Self-cleaning
  • Superhydrophobic


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