Geographical Range Central and South America
Habitat Rainforest
Scientific Name Morpho peleides
Conservation Status Not listed by IUCN

It's a Bird! It's a Plane! No, It's...

a swarm of blue morphos! As they flit above the rainforest treetops, the butterflies' brilliant blue color can be seen by pilots flying overhead. Now that's cool!

Not True Blue

Despite their stunning color, blue morphos are not true blue - that is, their wings are not colored blue. So what's the deal? Like all butterflies, morphos have tiny, overlapping scales covering their wings. In blue morphos, the scales on their wing tops have tiny ridges that reflect blue light. So even though the butterflies aren't colored blue, their wing tops look blue!

In contrast, the underside of their wings is brown, visible when the butterflies are at rest and their wings are folded up. The drab color helps them blend in with their surroundings and hide from enemies like birds and large insects. If the butterflies are discovered, they have a second line of defense: two bronze-colored wing spots that look like eyes - perfect for scaring off would-be predators.

Changing Tastes

An adult blue morpho - like all butterflies - drinks its food rather than eats it. It uses its proboscis (long, protruding mouth part) to drink sap and fruit juices.

But like all butterflies, adult morphos were plant-chomping caterpillars as youngsters. Blue morpho caterpillars are especially fond of leaves in the pea family.

Morph-ing

So how do blue morpho caterpillars turn into blue morpho butterflies? Like all butterflies, they make an amazing transformation known as metamorphosis. First, eggs hatch into larvae, better known as caterpillars. Blue morpho caterpillars aren't blue at all: they're reddish-brown with bright patches of lime green on the back.

After a while the caterpillars wrap themselves in protective enclosures, called chrysalises. At this stage the insects are called pupae. After some time, pupation ends and the mature butterflies emerge from their chrysalises.

Home In the Forest

Morpho adults spend most of their time on the forest floor and in the understory (among the lower shrubs and trees). This is where they do their eating and sleeping. But when they're mating, these butterflies flit through all layers of the forest.

Fun Facts

  • Blue morphos, like all butterflies, taste with sensors on their legs and taste-smell the air with their antennae.
  • Their beauty is brief: the entire blue morpho life cycle lasts only 115 days.

Class: Insecta
Order: Lepidoptera
Family: Nymphalidae