Blue Morpho Butterfly Facts

Blue Morpho Butterfly Facts

This page contains blue morpho butterfly facts, and information about other rainforest butterflies.

The Blue Morpho Butterfly is a beautiful butterfly with brilliant blue wings. It is found in the tropical rainforests of South and Central America.

Don’t be deceived; those blue wings aren’t just for show! They’ve evolved that way for a number of reasons. Let’s find out more about this and other facts about blue morphos. Oh, and we’ll also look at some other rainforest butterflies …

Once you have learned about Blue Morphos, you can find information about other rainforest animals here: Active Wild Rainforest Animal page.

Blue Morpho Butterfly Information

Blue morphos are large, brilliant blue butterflies that live in the forests of South and Central America, and also in parts of North America. Due to their striking looks and size, they are one of the best-known butterflies, and a favorite rainforest species.

Blue-Morpho-Butterfly-Wings

The blue morpho’s wings aren’t actually blue – it’s just the way they reflect light.

Scientific Stuff

In fact the ‘blue morpho’ isn’t actually just one species. The phrase ‘blue morpho’ can be used to refer to any blue butterfly of the genus ‘Morpho’. (A genus is a group of very closely-related species.)

Other morphos can be brown, green and even white. There are 29 Morpho species.

Morpho butterfiles are in the Nymphalidae family.

Butterfly Body Parts

Blue Morphos, like all other butterflies, have three main body parts: the head, thorax, and abdomen.

Blue morphos have four wings, arranged as two fore wings and two hind wings. The wings and six legs are attached to the thorax.

The butterfly’s two clubbed antennae and other sensory organs are found on its head. Morphos’ eyes are thought to be highly sensitive to UV light. This means males are able to see one another from great distances.

The butterflies’ antennae are used to taste and smell the air around them.

Like (almost) all butterflies, there are four stages to a blue morpho’s development: egg, larva (caterpillar), pupa (chrysalis), and imago (adult). We’ll learn more about the blue morpho’s life further down the page.

Big Butterflies

The Blue Morpho butterfly has vivid blue wings that are edged with black. With wingspans anywhere between 5 and 8 inches (12.5 and 20 cm), they are among the largest butterflies in the world.

Blue Morpho Butterfly Wings Are Not Actually Blue!

The most striking aspect of the butterfly’s appearance is its iridescent blue wings. They seem shiny and metallic. However, they are not actually blue!

The blue is not caused by pigmentation; it is actually caused by the way light reflects off of microscopic scales on the backs of the butterfly’s wings.

The structure of the scales is tetrahedral (pyramid-shaped), and they reflect light. The colours vary depending on the angle from which they are viewed.

This means that although the blue morpho’s wings look blue, they aren’t actually coloured blue.

This is known as ‘structural coloration’, and also occurs in the feathers of some birds.

The undersides of the blue morpho’s wings are a dull brown, with eyespots (ocelli) and other gray, black, and red markings. The colors and markings resemble foliage, and break up the butterfly’s outline. This is known as ‘crypsis’, and provides excellent camouflage when the morpho’s wings are closed.

The larger eyespots may deter predators, who at first glance could think the eyes belong to a larger creature.

Underside of blue morpho butterfly wings

The underside of a blue morpho butterfly’s wings.

When the Blue Morpho flies, its wings flash from brilliant blue to dull brown. This makes the butterfly seem to continuously appear and disappear. This makes it harder for a predator to keep track of the morpho, and is known as “flashing”.

Watch the video below to see just how amazing the blue morpho’s coloration is.

Blue Morpho Butterfly Males vs. Females

The male Blue Morpho’s wings are larger, and a much more vivid blue, than the female’s. Males flash their brightly-coloured wings to intimidate rivals.

Male morphos are highly territorial and will chase away other males.

Blue Morpho Butterfly Facts: Habitat

The Blue Morpho Butterfly is found in forests from Mexico to South America.

Morphos will come down to the rainforest floor to feed, and will often fly into clearings to warm themselves in the bright sunlight. They can also be spotted near streams.

When looking for a mate, blue Morphos can be found flying through all of the layers of the rainforest looking for a mate.

Blue Morpho Butterfly

Blue Morphos are found in all of the rainforest levels.

Defence Mechanisms

We’ve read about the blue morpho’s camouflage, and how the ‘flashing’ of its wings can help it evade predators. It has one or two other little defence mechanisms, too …

When threatened, both males and females release a strong odor from a gland between their front legs.

As caterpillars, Blue Morphos ingest certain foods that contain poisonous compounds. It is thought that this may cause them to be poisonous to predators as adults.

Blue Morpho Butterfly Diet

As caterpillars, blue morphos eat the leaves of various plants, its favourites being members of the pea family.

Adult blue morpho butterflies are unable to ‘eat’, and can only drink. This they do via a long, coiled mouthpart known as a ‘proboscis’, which unrolls to allows them to sip fluids: just like a drinking straw.

Blue Morphos drink the juices of rotting fruit, tree sap, decomposing animals and fungi.

Butterflies have taste sensors on their feet.

Blue Morpho Butterfly Life Cycle

The lifespan of the Blue Morpho is around four months. Most of their time is spent feeding and reproducing.

All butterflies have a four-stage life cycle: egg, larva (caterpillar), pupa (chrysalis), and imago (adult).

The changes they undergo during their life cycle is called metamorphosis. Let’s look closer at each of these four stages of life.

1. Egg

Blue morpho eggs are very small, and are laid on a leaf. The eggs are pale green and look like dewdrops.

2. Larva

From the egg hatches a caterpillar. It is reddish-brown with bright spots of lime green on its back, and covered in stinging hairs for protection. These hairs can irritate human skin. The caterpillars spend their days feeding on a variety of plants. If disturbed, the caterpillar will secrete a fluid that smells like spoiled butter.

3. Pupa

The green chrysalis hangs from a plant. The insect undergoes its final transformation inside this protective case.

4. Imago

After some time, the beautiful butterfly emerges from the chrysalis. Now it begins a time of feeding and reproducing. Blue morphos spend from 3 to 4 weeks in this form.

Blue Morpho Butterfly Open Wings

Defence Mechanisms

When threatened, both males and females release a strong odor from a gland between their front legs.

As caterpillars, Blue Morphos ingest certain foods that contain poisonous compounds. This may cause them to be poisonous to predators as adults.

Adults are well camouflaged when their wings are folded due to the brown, mottled underside of the wings. Also, when flying, the alternating “flashing” of the blue then brown color confuses predators and makes it hard for them to keep track of the butterfly, as it appears they are continually disappearing then reappearing.

Blue Morpho Butterfly Diet

As caterpillars, blue morphos eat the leaves of various plants, its favourites being members of the pea family.

Adult blue morpho butterflies are unable to ‘eat’, and can only drink. This they do via a long, coiled mouthpart known as a ‘proboscis’, which unrolls to allows them to sip fluids: just like a drinking straw.

Blue Morphos drink the juices of rotting fruit, tree sap, decomposing animals and fungi.

Butterflies have taste sensors on their feet.

Blue Morpho Predators & Threats

Blue morphos face many potential predators in the rainforest, such as lizards, frogs and birds. Two birds in particular that are known to feed on blue morphos are the jacamar and flycatcher.

Although blue morphos are not directly endangered, like many rainforest animals they are threatened by deforestation and habitat fragmentation.

Humans pose another threat to the Blue Morpho butterfly. The butterfly is very beautiful and thereby attracts collectors and artists who wish to capture them and/or display them.

Other Rainforest Butterflies

There are more than 2,000 different species of butterfly found in the rainforest of South America.

Here are just some of the other butterflies found in rainforests across the world:

Birdwing Butterfly

Birdwings are large, blue-green butterflies native to the Australian rainforests.

Swallowtail Butterfly

Swallowtails are large butterflies with ornamental tails. Like morphos, they have bright wings with mottled undersides.

Dead-wood Leaf Nymph Butterfly

Dead-wood Leaf nymphs look just like dead leaves: a handy protective measure. Found in the forest understory, they prefer to fly close to the ground.

Amber Phantom Butterfly

Amber Phantom butterflys are noted for their rounded, transparent wings. They are found in the undergrowth and highly-shaded areas. They are largely inactive during the day and emerge at dusk.

Blushing Phantom Butterfly

Blushing Phantoms are so named because their transparent wings have areas of pink at the bottom that makes the insects appear to be blushing.

Owl Butterfly

The owl butterfly has enormous eyespots that resemble an owl’s eyes.

Blue Morpho Butterfly Facts

  1. Blue morphos have a characteristically slow, wobbling, flight.
  2. Blue morpho caterpillars moult five times before becoming chrysalises.
  3. Blue morphos are visible to pilots flying over the rainforest.
  4. Blue morphos live alone, and only come together to mate.
  5. The name ‘morpho’ may come from the fact that the butterflies seem to change shape as they are flying.
  6. Not all Morphos are iridescent, but all have eyespots.
  7. Blue Morphos are diurnal (active during the day).
  8. The native peoples of the rainforest associate the blue morpho butterfly with many superstitions. The insects are considered to either be evil spirits or wish granters.
  9. More butterflies are found in the tropical rainforests than any other part of the world.
  10. There is also a species of butterfly known as a White Morpho. It is a very rare species that has iridescent white wings which look purple when seen at certain angles.

Find Out About Other Rainforest Animals At Active Wild

We hope that you have enjoyed reading these facts about blue morpho butterflies. Find out about more rainforest animals here.

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