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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 ¬©

  Blue Morpho  
Picture of Blue-Morpho
Picture of Blue-Morpho Picture of Blue-MorphoPicture of Blue-MorphoPicture of Blue-MorphoPicture of Blue-Morpho

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.

Picture of the Blue Morpho
Picture of the Blue Morpho

Blue Morpho Information

Category: Butterfly or Moth
Common Name: Blue Morpho
Scientific Name: Morpho peleides

Taxonomy Hierarchy

 Arrow graphic Kingdom: Animalia
  Arrow graphic Phylum: Arthropoda
   Arrow graphic Class: Insecta
    Arrow graphic Order: Lepidoptera
     Arrow graphic Family: Nymphalidae
      Arrow graphic Genus: Morpho
       Arrow graphic Species: peleides

Size, Identifying Tags and Territorial Reach

Size (Adult, Length): Size (Adult, Length): 65 mm to 80 mm (2.535 inches to 3.12 inches)
Identifying Colors: blue, black, brown, white, orange, tan, green
Additional Descriptors: flying, beneficial, large, shiny, iridescent

North American Territorial Reach (Though Not Limited To): Mexico

A Note About Territorial Reach: Keep in mind that an insect's reach is not limited by lines drawn on a map and therefore species may appear in areas, regions and/or states beyond those listed above. Insects are driven by environmental factors, food supplies and mating patterns and do not nescessarily work within hard-and-fast territorial lines like we humans do.

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