Scientific Name: Morpho peleides
While we’re often amazed by the metamorphosis that a caterpillar undertakes to become a butterfly, the unusual characteristics some butterfly species exhibit are even more awe-inspiring. The Blue Morpho Butterfly, our ocean-colored Bug of the Month, is hiding quite the secret. Let’s find out what it is, shall we?
The blue morpho butterfly, as its name denotes, is colored in a vivid shade of blue easily recognized amongst the lush green tropical backdrop it calls home. Native to Mexico, South and Central America, the top side of their wings is a beautiful sky blue with their underside being a dull brown color with multiple eyespots to provide added camouflage in the shrubs and trees they occupy. This butterfly species is also one of the largest in the world with a wingspan reaching up to eight inches. To compare, the largest butterfly in the world, the Queen Alexandra’s birdwing, has a wingspan up to ten inches.
Once blue morpho butterflies reach adulthood, they subsist on an all-liquid diet. During metamorphosis from caterpillar to butterfly, they lose the mouthparts once used to chew a variety of leaves and instead use their straw-like proboscis to drink nourishing liquids from flowers, tree sap, rotten fruit and sometimes dead animals. Taste receptors in their antennae and feet assist them in finding suitable food sources.
As we mentioned earlier, the blue morpho butterfly is hiding a secret. While the blue hue of the morpho butterfly’s wing color is their most distinguishing feature and their namesake, it is surprising to discover it isn’t technically “blue.” The blue morpho’s wings don’t contain any pigment of blue. In reality, thousands of scales cover them that absorb light and reflect the components of that spectrum back to our eyes, which perceive it as the color blue. As they fly and flap their wings, the angle at which light hits them can give an iridescence of other colors changing how they appear significantly to the naked eye. Talk about your eyes playing tricks on you!
“Blue Morpho Butterfly” Rainforest Alliance