By: Elizabeth Mann
The Blue Morpho butterfly lives in the tropical rain forests of Latin America from Mexico to Columbia. They are among the largest butterflies in the world. The Blue Morpho’s colorful wings serve as a special defense. When an enemy approaches the butterfly, it uses its wings to flash bright light in their eyes. This temporary blindness confuses the enemy causing them to flee. When the Blue Morpho needs camouflage they simply close their wings revealing a brown color. This color helps them blend into the trees. The “eye spots” on their wings also are used as camouflage.
The Blue Morpho caterpillar will eat for about eleven weeks to reach the size of three and a half inches. That’s a big caterpillar! After searching for the perfect branch it will spin a silk pad to attach itself. After hanging upside down for several hours it will finally split its skin and reveal a beautiful green chrysalis. It will hang in the chrysalis for about two weeks until it is ready emerge as a Blue Morpho butterfly.It is hard to believe these large butterflies start as eggs that are 2.1 mm in diameter. The eggs usually take eight to nine days to hatch. After hatching the tiny Blue Morpho caterpillar will begin eating. The caterpillars munch on Mucuna and peanut plants. When the caterpillar becomes to big for its skin it will shed it off. The time between the shedding of skin is called an Instar.
This beautiful butterfly is in severely threatened by deforestation of tropical rain forest and collectors killing Blue Morphos because of their beauty. After watching a Blue Morpho fly around me at The University of Florida’s Butterfly Rain forest, I became determined to help this butterfly before its too late. It is my dream to some day be able to raise Blue Morpho butterflies in Costa Rica, but for now I can help them by informing others about their plight of extinction. You can help the Blue Morpho by buying preserved butterflies only from a licensed butterfly farmer, not from someone who has captured a Blue Morpho from the wild. The two best ways to help them is supporting conservation of tropical rain forests or by planting food for Blue Morpho caterpillars. Their main food source is the peanut plant.
To learn more about butterflies visit my blog at http://elizabethssecretgarden.blogspot.com/ .