The blue morpho butterfly is a stunning species, limited to a specific habitat range. They are also known as the common morpho, the emperor, and peleides blue. It is appreciated for its large size and striking color. The name ‘morpho’ might have derived from the fact that these butterflies’ appearance changes as they fly. There are ten known subspecies of the blue morpho butterfly. Some of them are M. a. Achilles, M. a. patroclus, and M. a. fischeri.
Table of Contents
Table Of Content
Table of Contents
Table of Contents
Length: 6 inches (15 cm)
Weight: 0.07-0.10 oz (2-3 gm)
Wingspan: 5-8 inches (12-20 cm)
Body and Coloration: As the name suggests, these butterflies have a stunning blue hue on the upper side of their wings. This coloration isn’t caused by pigmentation; but by the configuration of scales on their wings that reflect light in a certain way that creates a shimmering appearance. Therefore, despite their look, the blue morpho butterflies are not actually blue.
The dark brown underparts of their wings contain milky brown patterns with yellow-rimmed black eyespots. The males’ wings appear brighter than that of the females’.
These butterflies are rare; only found in the western hemisphere, ranging from Mexico through Central and South America, including the Amazonian rain forest to Paraguay. They are found across Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, and Venezuela.
This species can be found in large numbers within montane forests, tropical rainforests, lowland forests, etc. Avoiding denser forest regions, they fly in open areas like trails, forest edges, and rivers.
These butterflies spend much of their time in lower shrubs, on the forest floor, and in the understory of trees.
Their diet preference varies according to their life stages. In the caterpillar stage, they feed on various climbing plant leaves. The most preferred plants are members of the pea family (Fabaceae or Leguminosae).
The adults do not drink flower nectar; instead, they drink juice from fermented tree saps, rotting fruit, fungi, etc.
Blue morpho butterflies are diurnal.
The blue morpho butterflies fly slowly in a wobbling manner.
They fly around in bright sunlight to warm themselves.
The males possess a territorial tendency and often chase other males away.
While looking for mates, blue morpho butterflies fly through all the forest’s layers.
Because of their short lifespan, they spend most of their time reproducing and eating.
The lifespan of the blue morpho butterfly is 115 days.
The eyespots on the underparts of their wings help to ward off predators.
In flight, the blue and brown colors in their wings alternate, leaving their predators confused and making it hard to spot them.
They release a strong odor from a gland between their front legs to repel enemies.
The sensory apparatus on their appendages helps them detect food.
Mating and Reproduction
Male butterflies release pheromones to attract the females. Upon recognizing the females of their species, they pursue them immediately. And if the female accepts, they perform a courtship flight.
Females have egg-laying sites that are specific to one host plant. They lay eggs on the dorsal surface of the leaves. The maximum number of eggs laid on one plant is eight, and the amount laid in a single field is fifteen.
Egg: These are very small and round with a pale green color and water droplet-like appearance. It takes from 10-12 days to hatch.
Larva: In this stage, the caterpillars hatch from the eggs. They have reddish-brown bodies with bright green spots on the back. Their bodies are covered in stinging hair that protects them from enemies. This form lasts for 11-14 days. Young caterpillars rest on the leaves, while old ones rest on stems and branches under direct sunlight. Compared to the older larvae, the younger ones are positioned in a way that hides them from predators, while the old caterpillars roam around on branches, increasing feeding efficiency.
Pupa: This is the final stage of their transformation. They undergo the changes from caterpillar to butterfly inside a protective case that hangs down from the host plant branches, known as a chrysalis.This stage lasts for approximately 14 days. The green coloration of their chrysalis in the pupa stage helps it camouflage in the rainforest.
Imago: Imago is the fully transformed stage. In this stage, the adult butterflies feed and reproduce. They live for 3-4 weeks in this form.
Insectivorous birds like flycatchers and jacamars feed on blue morpho butterflies. Frogs, lizards, snakes, and spiders are also their natural enemies.
The IUCN did not evaluate the blue morpho butterfly in the “Red List of Threatened Species”.
However, the fragmentation and destruction of habitat threaten the environment they depend on for survival. Also, they are harvested for personal collection, as well as used in the jewelry trade.
Many specialists refer to this species as a subspecies of M. helenor and, thus, call it Morpho helenor peleides.
This butterfly is associated with many superstitions among the native peoples of the rainforest. They are considered to be wish granters and sometimes even evil spirits.
Pilots flying over the rainforest often get to see these butterflies.