The Fascinating Butterfly Blue Species: Blue Morpho

The Blue morpho butterfly (Morpho peleides) has a color pattern that looks flashing when flying. It's technically not a blue shade but more of an iridescent hue because of its microscopic scales.

Blue Morpho Species Summary

Scientific NameMorpho peleides
Family NameNymphalidae
RangeCentral America, South America, Mexico
Host PlantsLegumes, alfalfa, beans, trumpetvines
Butterfly DescriptionThe wings of this butterfly have small scales and brilliant shades of blue color and a wingspan of 5 to 8 inches
Caterpillar DescriptionCaterpillars are reddish-brown with lime green, yellow, or gray patches. Their bodies are coated with hair that can serve as their defense mechanism

Blue Morpho Description

The wings of the Blue morpho butterfly are a vivid blue color with black lines running down the costal regions. Its wingspan is between 5 to 8 inches. The ventral side of this butterfly’s wings has a dull brown tint covered in numerous eyespots. 

The males’ wings are larger and brighter than the females’. They also have six legs, three body segments, two clubbed antennae, and two pairs of forewings and hindwings.

Comparison with Pipevine Swallowtail and Mexican Bluewing

The Pipevine swallowtail, sometimes known as the Blue swallowtail (Battus philenor), is a black butterfly with iridescent blue hindwings. Its wingspan is about 2 to 3 inches. Its main characteristic is a row of orange spots on the underside of its hindwings.

On the other hand, the Mexican bluewing (Myscelia ethusa) is a medium-sized butterfly with white dots on the apical regions and black and blue bands. The ventral part is black and brown and resembles a dead leaf. It has wings that are two to three inches wide.

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Blue Morpho Caterpillar Description

The first instar larva consumes its empty shell immediately after hatching. This gives it an initial source of proteins and carbohydrates before it starts to feed on the host plant. The entire stage lasts about 8 weeks, after which the caterpillar undergoes a pre-pupal stage.

First instarAppears an alternate of white and reddish brown per segment with a hairy appendage along the caudal area.
Second instarThe larva turns light gray with yellow spots and reddish-brown markings on the dorsal and ventral sides.
Third instarIt transforms into a bright green hue with reddish brown and black markings along the legs. The dorsal side mostly consists of white thorn-like protrusions.
Fourth instarThe caterpillar will appear to be a lighter shade of reddish brown with white markings and black spots along the ventral side. The protrusions are still present.
Fifth instarThe appearance is similar to the fourth instar but is now longer and wider.

During the pre-pupal stage, the caterpillar’s body turns light green for about three days. The larva will cling to a branch or huge leaf and rest there for between 36 and 48 hours. Then the chrysalis will form beneath the skin. 

Blue Morpho Chrysalis Description

The bright green chrysalis is revealed when the larval skin splits along the sutures on its back. The pupal stage lasts roughly 2 weeks.

The chrysalis can release an unpleasant ultrasonic sound when predators touch it. This is one way to prevent external threats, as predators are often sensitive to this sound frequency.

Blue Morpho Habitat and Range

Tropical forests in Central America (Costa Rica), South America, and Mexico are home to Blue morphos. Most of the time, the adult butterflies stay on the forest floor and among the lower shrubs and trees of the understory. However, they will fly through every layer of the forest when searching for mates during the breeding season.

Blue Morpho Host Plants and Diet

These are some of the Blue morpho butterfly’s host plants:

  • Soybean
  • Pea
  • Peanut
  • Alfalfa
  • Bean
  • Chickpea

Adult Blue morpho butterflies sip the food with the help of a proboscis. They like rotting fruit, tree sap, wet mud, and fungi.

Is blue morpho endangered?

Unfortunately, habitat destruction and unsustainable collection pose a threat to the Blue morpho butterflies, and they are considered on the edge of being listed as an endangered species.

The Amazon Conservation Association is collaborating with the indigenous Queros Wachiperi community to develop an ecotourism industry in southeast Peru to safeguard these species by preserving the beautiful Blue morpho population currently thriving in their area.

Is the blue morpho butterfly rare?

Blue morpho butterflies are uncommon outside of the rainforests in their native range. Unfortunately, people use their shiny wings for jewelry making, and deforestation is another big problem they face.

Common Predators

Some of their common predators include the following: 

  • Small rodents
  • Lizards
  • Birds
  • Spiders 

They usually resort to flashing defense mechanisms to keep them safe from predators. The Blue morpho butterflies appear to emerge and disappear as they fly, making it difficult for predators to follow them.

Is the blue morpho poisonous?

These butterflies are poisonous, and their wings have a distinctive structure that makes them unappealing to predators. During their caterpillar phase, the thorn-like tufts of hair can cause skin irritation if you come in contact with them.

8 Blue Morpho Butterfly Interesting Facts

Here are some fun facts about this species:

  1. They are not really blue but iridescent.
  2. They love the light.
  3. Pilots often see them in swarms above the treetops, enjoying the sun.
  4. These butterflies sit fluids from decomposing animals.
  5. Their total life cycle lasts for 155 days.
  6. Their blue-tinted scales act as a prism to reflect light and make them more attractive to collectors.
  7. They have taste sensors on their feet.
  8. It’s one of the largest butterflies in Costa Rica.

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