Insect wings lack internal muscles, and the orderly, necessary deformations which they undergo in flight and folding are in part remotely controlled, in part encoded in their structure. This factor is crucial in understanding their complex, extremely varied morphology. Models have proved particularly useful in clarifying the facilitation and control of wing deformation. Their development has followed a logical sequence from conceptual models through physical and simple analytical to numerical models. All have value provided their limitations are realized and constant comparisons made with the properties and mechanical behaviour of real wings. Numerical modelling by the finite element method is by far the most time–consuming approach, but has real potential in analysing the adaptive significance of structural details and interpreting evolutionary trends. Published examples are used to review the strengths and weaknesses of each category of model, and a summary is given of new work using finite element modelling to investigate the vibration properties and response to impact of hawkmoth wings.

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