What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Subject: Morpho telemachus in Sao Paulo state, Brazil?
Location: Sao Paulo state (60km from Sao Paulo city)
December 2, 2012 6:36 am
Hi Bugman – I cam across this formation this morning. It’s in secondary forest in Sao Paulo state, Brazil, in December (nearly summertime, but warm and wet time of year.)
I wondered if it was Morpho telemachus? We do have lots of the large blue butterfly in the area.
YouTube video I took this morning here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YC1BW5fGYvU
Many thanks,
Signature: Alex

Morpho Caterpillar Aggregation

Hi Alex,
Though this Caterpillar resembles images we have posted in the past of Morpho telemachus, there does appear to be some differences.  Your photo lacks critical clarity, so we can’t be certain.  We will try to contact Keith Wolfe to see if he can provide a definitive species.

Keith Wolfe provides an identification
Dear Alex and Daniel,
Not Morpho telemachus, but rather the red “taturanas” of its close relative M. hercules.  Here are Brazilian photos of the same species from São Paulo (www.flickr.com/photos/ibere/2145527710/sizes/l/) and Espírito Santo (http://www.mindenpictures.com/cache/pod/800pixels/90008291.jpg).  For additional information, please see – https://www.facebook.com/groups/209738615715310/permalink/490647474291088/.
Blue skies,
Keith

Many thanks Daniel – I took some more photos this morning, which I hope are better quality. I have noticed that there are lots of these formations of them around and about the same area. I also attach a photo of the pile of feces below them, in case that is specific to them. However, they don’t appear to be going anywhere!
I hope these help,
Best Wishes
Alex.

Morpho hercules Caterpillar aggregation

Thanks Alex,
Your new photos are much better quality.  We are trying to get some clarification on the taxonomy of
Morpho taturanas from Keith Wolfe.  We cannot determine if it is a separate species or a subspecies.

Morpho frass

Keith Wolfe clarifies ID:  Morpho hercules hercules
Daniel,
… Well, so much for my feeble attempt to seem “worldly”.  Taturanas (note quotes in my original reply) is Brazilian/Portuguese for hairy moth caterpillars that are potentially fatal to touch, and while red Morpho larvae such as these do appear similarly dangerous to the casual observer, they are no more venomous than any other immature butterfly.  Thus, I believe the complete ID is Morpho hercules hercules Dalman, 1823, which by the way are probably nocturnal feeders.
Cheers,
Keith

Thanks for the clarification Keith. 

Many thanks Daniel and Keith – I could not work out how to reply on the website, but thank you both anyway! So – it’s most likely the Morpho hercules hercules Dalman, 1823
I will keep an eye on them, and see what happens.
Best Wishes

More from Keith Wolfe
Olá Alex,
Congratulations on finding these handsome caterpillars, which are infrequently encountered and thus little understood.  Upon reaching full maturity, their color will begin to fade as they wander away in search of a safe place to pupate, so you might want to confine a couple before then to watch the miraculous transformation into a regal butterfly.  Children especially will be fascinated!  I have never seen this species’ chrysalis, but suspect it is a beautiful jade green.  Please let Daniel and me know the outcome.
Question: What is their approximate length and/or size?  May I please see your latest larval photos at 1200 pixels or better, which are solely for my personal reference and scientific research?  Muito obrigado for your time and kind reply, Alex, and best wishes from California!
Abraços,
Keith

Thanks to Alex for adding to our archive and to Keith for his always valuable caterpillar identifications.  Alas, What’s That Bug? hasn’t a single Morpho chrysalis image, and we would love additional documentation if possible.

Update:  December 17, 2013
Hi Keith and Daniel – I hope you are both well.
I just wanted to let you know that the same red caterpillars are back in exactly the same location as last year – and by exactly, I mean to the inch! They have only been there a week, but it’s the same large colony. There was a smaller colony last year in another location that has not returned, but I am keeping an eye open for them – they are slightly later this year than last, but not much.
My wife found this Brazilian Facebook page which is a wildlife reserve that has the same, and they have quite a good video: link here: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=757818200898941&set=vb.625614964119266&type=2&theater I hope you can see that?
All the best for Christmas and the New Year ahead,
Alex
Sito Cambui,
Brazil.
Alex Rudd

Thanks for the update Alex.  No new photos?

Keith Wolfe provides a correction
Greetings Alex, very nice to hear from you again!  FYI, the clustered red caterpillars in the referenced video are a different species (Morpho iphitus) than what you kindly shared previously (M. hercules).  The two also feed on the leaves of entirely different trees — M. hercules, moonseed family (Menispermaceae); M. iphitus, bean family (Fabaceae).
Best wishes for good health and happiness in the coming year,
Keith

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination
Location: Brazil

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