Common Morpho Fact File
Credit: Tom Hilton, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Leaves, Sap, Fungi
A Dazzling Blue Butterfly!
The common morpho is also known as the blue morpho due to the dazzling blue color of its wings. These are colored not by pigment but by light reflecting off the scales which cover them.
Unlike most other butterflies which feed on nectar the common morpho will seek out tree sap, fungi or animal fluids. Their diet changes through their life with the caterpillars being reliant on leaves.
As a butterfly they go through a 4 stage lifecycle beginning as an egg, hatching in to a caterpillar, entering a pupa and then emerging as an adult butterfly.
They are threatened by deforestation and are collected for butterfly displays at zoos and botanic gardens.
Read on to learn more about these incredible invertebrates.
What does the Common Morpho look like?
At rest the common morpho shows the brown underside of its wings. When they take off though the iridescent blue sheen of the upper wing becomes visible. On the underside of the wings are four eyespots.
Along the edges of the wing are black stripes.
These wings are covered by tiny scales.
Their wings are not colored blue by pigment. Instead, the color is a product of the light which is reflected off the wing.
The blue morpho has a pair of clubbed antennae at the top of the body.
Their body is divided in to three segments known as the head, thorax and abdomen. Coming off of the body are a total of six legs.
An average common morpho measure 9.5-12cm (3.7-4.7in) long. Males tend to have broader wings than the females.
How does the Common Morpho survive in its habitat?
The taste sensors of the common morpho are located on their feet while the antennae are able to taste-smell the air.
— AD —
What does the Common Morpho eat?
These insects are attracted to a range of rotting fruits, tree sap, fungi and animal fluids. They are able to obtain these by sucking them through the proboscis on the front of the face.
Caterpillars have an entirely different diet to the adults and feed on leaves. They show a preference for those of plants in the pea family.
Learn more about the Common Morpho in this video from Springs Preserve on YouTube
Where do you find the Common Morpho?
South and Central America is the native home of the common morpho. Here they occur from Mexico through to Colombia.
Where can the Common Morpho survive?
This species is a resident of tropical forests.
Credit: Elke Wetzig, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
How does the Common Morpho produce its young?
Most mating occurs at feeding sites where large numbers of these butterflies will gather together.
Mating is a long process taking between 8 hours and three days.
Common morpho undergo a metamorphosis. Their life cycle includes four stages.
Adults lay eggs on to the upperside of leaves. The eggs are colored green with a ring of brown spots on the top. Eggs incubate for between 8 and 16 days before hatching in to the young known as caterpillars.
The caterpillar has a long, thin body with a number of legs and will spend its time on a plant on which it can feed. They mostly feed around dawn and dusk.
They will undergo five stages as a caterpillar known as instars. In between each of these they undergo a molt during which they shed their old exoskeleton.
As a caterpillar their body is colored reddish-orange. Along the back they have bright green patches. A number of large white tufts of fur protrude from their body.
After growing to a suitable size the caterpillar will form a protective coating known as a chrysalis and in here it will undergo its development in to a butterfly before emerging.
The pupae of a common morpho is colored green and is oval-shaped.
What does the Common Morpho do during its day?
Much of their adult life is spent near the forest floor.
Large groupings are occasionally sighted flying above the canopy. They will fly above the canopy to sun themselves.
Credit: Pavel Kirillov from St.Petersburg, Russia, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Predators and Threats
What stops the Common Morpho from surviving and thriving?
A range of birds provide the main natural threat to the common morpho. These include the jacamar or the fly catcher.
An industry has been formed around the collection of common morpho butterflies for export to zoos and other such facilities which have displays of butterflies. These programs are used to encourage local people to leave the forest intact as this is where the supply of butterflies is taken from.
Despite this the rainforests which they inhabit are still heavily logged and deforestation is an ongoing threat to the species.
— AD —
The common morpho is also known as the emperor or Peliedes blue morpho.
Credit: Tubifex, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. 2022. Meet the Butterflies. [online] Available at: <https://www.lewisginter.org/visit/events/butterflies-live/meet-the-butterflies/> [Accessed 10 March 2022].
North American Insects & Spiders. 2022. Common Morpho Butterfly – Morpho peleides – North American Insects & Spiders. [online] Available at: <https://www.cirrusimage.com/butterfly_common_morpho/> [Accessed 10 March 2022].
Stlzoo.org. 2022. Blue Morpho | Saint Louis Zoo. [online] Available at: <https://www.stlzoo.org/animals/abouttheanimals/invertebrates/insects/butterfliesandmoths/bluemorpho> [Accessed 10 March 2022].
Rainforest Alliance. 2022. Blue Morpho Butterfly. [online] Available at: <https://www.rainforest-alliance.org/species/blue-morpho-butterfly/> [Accessed 10 March 2022].
Entnemdept.ufl.edu. 2022. Blue morpho – Morpho peleides. [online] Available at: <https://entnemdept.ufl.edu/creatures/bfly/blue_morpho.htm> [Accessed 10 March 2022].