Blue Morpho (Morpho peleides)
Detailing the identifying qualities of the Blue Morpho, including physical features and territorial reach.
Updated: 2/8/2018; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
Observers of the huge Blue Morpho are in for a surprise once it spreads its wings and flashes a stunning sapphire color.
The large, tropical Blue Morpho butterfly is common in the tropical parts of Central America, but its range also includes Mexico in North America. The wingspan of this giant beauty can stretch to almost 20 cm (8 inches) across. They are shy and tend to flutter away from objects (and people) approaching it. The quick flashes of blue color seen as they flap their wings are thought to distract or confuse predators. The saturated hue is made possible by small reflective scales that cover the wings. Each iridescent scale contributes to the overall shade seen by human eyes. The direction and intensity of light in the area directly impacts the shade of blue one will see, so a moving butterfly may appear to change hues while in flight. The brown underside of the wings is more often visible than the topside because they perch on flowers with their wings closed. Each forewing has two large black and yellow eyespots. A creamy white double line borders the edge. Four eyespots are on the smaller hindwing, the first of which is substantially larger than the rest. The edge of the hindwing is bordered with a creamy line as well as a vibrant orange one. The many eyespots may act to confuse a predator, suggesting a cluster of creatures instead of one butterfly. Their wings are fragile, and the delicate scales can easily rub off on contact.
Blue Morphos tend to live in groups. Their lifespan is less than 4 months. Living in close proximity with each other helps maintain a local population, but also provides increased confusion in predators thanks to the many eyespots and flickers of cobalt blue a group of Blue Morphos can create. Caterpillars are reddish brown and black with large spots of yellow on them. The head, underbelly and rear are covered with tufts of stinging white and brown hairs. Caterpillars eat the leaves of clover and legumes found in the Pea plant family. Adults drink the juices of spoiling tropical fruits. Some of these juices may have started fermenting as they rot, producing an alcohol by-product which may make the butterflies slightly inebriated as they feed.