Where Does the Blue Morpho Butterfly Live? Discover Their Vibrant Habitats in 2023

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The Blue Morpho butterfly is an enchanting species known for its vibrant blue color and captivating presence. If you’ve ever been mesmerized by their beauty and wondered where these magnificent creatures reside, you’re not alone. The Blue Morpho butterfly, also recognized as Morpho peleides, makes its home primarily in the tropical environments of Central and South America 1.

These butterflies thrive in open areas such as paths, trails, forest edges, and rivers, while generally avoiding dense forest environments 1. As a curious observer, you can appreciate the Blue Morpho butterfly’s captivating appearance knowing that their natural habitat plays a crucial role in their survival. By understanding where these remarkable insects reside, you gain a deeper appreciation for the delicate balance that exists within their ecosystems.

The Blue Morpho Butterfly: An Overview

The Blue Morpho Butterfly is a stunning and unique creature. You might have seen its vibrant blue wings in pictures or documentaries. These butterflies primarily inhabit the tropical rainforests of Central and South America. Their scientific names are Morpho menelaus and Morpho peleides.

You’ll find Blue Morphos among the largest butterflies in the world, with a wingspan of up to 8 inches. They belong to the Nymphalidae family, which is known for its distinctive and diverse species.

Here’s what you should know about the Blue Morpho Butterfly:

  • The blue color on their wings comes from microscopic scales which can reflect light.
  • They are more active during the day and tend to rest at night.
  • As adults, they have quite a short lifespan, with only about 2-3 weeks to live.
  • Their primary diet consists of rotting fruits or flower nectar.

When it comes to size, Blue Morpho butterflies can be compared to other species like the Monarch Butterfly or the Swallowtail Butterfly:

Butterfly species Wingspan
Blue Morpho 5 to 8 inches
Monarch 3.5 to 4 inches
Swallowtail 3.5 to 5.5 inches

Now that you have a brief understanding of the Blue Morpho Butterfly, it’s easier to appreciate its captivating appearance and fascinating characteristics. Enjoy observing these beautiful creatures, and, if you can, try to spot them in their natural habitat.

Physical Attributes

Wings and Color

One of the most striking features of the adult Morpho butterfly is its iridescent blue wings. The bright blue color is not due to pigmentation but rather the microscopic scales on their wings that diffract and interfere with light, creating that stunning iridescence. Here are some interesting facts about their wings:

  • No actual blue pigment is present
  • Wingspan can reach up to 5.0 to 6.5 inches
  • Scales on the wings are responsible for the bright blue color

Senses and Appendages

Morpho butterflies have sophisticated senses and appendages to help them navigate their environment. Some features include:

  • Antennae for detecting scents and sensing their environment
  • Legs with tiny sensors to help them taste and identify food sources
  • A proboscis, a long tube-like mouthpart, for feeding on nectar from flowers

Camouflage Adaptations

While the top side of the Morpho butterfly’s wings are a stunning iridescent blue, the underside is a stark contrast, featuring a brown color with eyespots (ocelli). This camouflage adaptation allows the butterfly to blend in with its surroundings when it closes its wings. The eyespots also provide the appearance of a larger, possibly threatening creature, which helps deter potential predators.

In summary, the adult blue morpho butterfly has unique physical attributes, including iridescent wings, advanced senses and appendages, and effective camouflage adaptations, making it a fascinating species to observe and study.

Habitat and Distribution

Forests and Rainforests

The Blue Morpho butterfly thrives in tropical environments, particularly in forests and rainforests. They tend to live among the lush foliage of the forest floor and make frequent trips to the trees’ treetops. Blue Morphos prefer areas with abundant vegetation and suitable conditions for them to survive, such as clearings for sunbathing and flying.

In these environments, you can commonly find them:

  • Gliding through sunlit paths and trails
  • Avoiding dense forest areas
  • Flying near rivers and forest edges

Geographical Range

The Blue Morpho butterfly has a wide geographical range, mainly found throughout Central and South America. Here are some of the countries where you can spot these magnificent creatures:

  • Mexico
  • Costa Rica
  • Venezuela
  • Colombia
  • Brazil

Their habitat spans from the tropical forests of Mexico in the north to those of Colombia, Venezuela, and Brazil in the south. By exploring the lush rainforests and diverse ecosystems of Central and South America, you can witness the beauty of the Blue Morpho butterfly in its natural habitat.

Overall, the Blue Morpho butterfly exhibits a preference for tropical forests and rainforests with lush foliage and clearings. Their distribution is concentrated in Central and South American countries, such as Mexico, Costa Rica, Venezuela, Colombia, and Brazil. Through understanding their habitat and geographical range, you can better appreciate the unique appeal of these fascinating insects.

Life Cycle

From Egg to Larvae

The life cycle of the blue morpho butterfly begins with the female laying her eggs on plants, often those in the pea family. After hatching, the larvae feed on these plants to grow. As a caterpillar, they go through different stages called instars, molting their skin as they expand in size.

Transition: The Pupa Stage

Upon reaching their final larval stage, these caterpillars undergo an incredible transformation known as metamorphosis. They form a chrysalis, also known as a pupa, which serves as their protective covering. Over the course of several days, their bodies reorganize and develop into the adult blue morpho butterflies.

Survival and Longevity

Adult blue morpho butterflies are known for their vibrant, iridescent blue wings which they use in flight. Although their impressive appearance might seem to make them more noticeable, it is in fact an effective way for the butterflies to deter predators and attract mates. Their lifespan, though short-lived, is rich in unique experiences during their aerial journeys.

Reproduction

When it comes to reproducing, males and females exhibit distinct behavior. Males actively search for females in order to mate, while females focus on finding suitable host plants to lay their eggs. Once their reproductive tasks are accomplished, the life cycle of the blue morpho butterfly starts anew with the next generation of eggs and larvae.

Diet and Predation

Nurturing and Nutrition

The blue morpho butterfly feeds primarily on nectar from various flowers. As a caterpillar, it relies on the leaves of certain host plants for nourishment. For example, you’ll often find these caterpillars munching on the leaves of the Erythroxylum genus. As an adult butterfly, blue morphos may also drink the juices of rotting fruit and tree sap, in addition to visiting mud puddles for minerals.

Unusual Food Sources

While nectar is their primary food source, blue morpho butterflies also obtain nutrients from some unexpected sources. At times, they have been observed feeding on mud, tree sap, fungi, and even decomposing animals. These unusual sources can provide essential minerals, nutrients, and moisture for their survival.

Predators and Defense

Blue morphos face numerous predators throughout their lifecycle. Some of the common threats they face include:

  • Birds, such as jacamars and flycatchers, which prey on adult butterflies.
  • Poisonous creatures that can attack caterpillars and chrysalises.
  • Small mammals and reptiles that may eat eggs, caterpillars, or even adult butterflies.

To defend themselves, blue morphos employ various tactics. Their bright blue wings, which can startle predators, is one form of defense. Additionally, when their wings are closed, the brown underside can help them blend into their surroundings, providing excellent camouflage.

In summary, adult blue morpho butterflies mostly feed on nectar from flowers and occasionally on mud, tree sap, fungi, and decomposing animals. They face many predators such as birds, poisonous creatures, and small mammals; and use their vibrant wings as well as camouflage for defense.

Threats and Conservation

Human Impact

The Blue Morpho Butterfly faces various threats, one of which is the impact of human activities. Collectors often go after these beautiful insects due to their vibrant blue wings, and they are sometimes used in making jewelry. Additionally, deforestation poses a significant risk to their habitat, leading to an endangered status for some species.

Natural Obstacles and Protection

Blue Morpho Butterflies also face natural challenges in their environment. For instance, they have to navigate through streams and avoid predators like birds, called pilots. To cope with these threats, these butterflies have developed certain adaptations:

  • Camouflage: Their wings have dull, brownish colors on the underside, blending in with the surroundings when at rest.
  • Mimicry: Some species show eye-like patterns, deterring predators by appearing more intimidating.

You can play an essential role in protecting Blue Morpho Butterflies by supporting conservation efforts and promoting sustainable forestry practices. Remember, preserving their habitat helps maintain a healthy ecosystem, benefiting not just the butterflies but humans too.

The Allure of the Blue Morpho

The Blue Morpho butterfly is a stunning creature, native to tropical environments in Central and South America. You can often spot them in open areas like paths, trails, forest edges, and rivers. But what makes them so attractive to the human eye?

One of the main reasons is their iridescent blue color, which is a result of the unique structure of their wings. They have multiple layers of branches that reflect light selectively, producing a vivid blue that captures our attention. This flashing blue color not only adds to their beauty, but also serves as a defense mechanism, making it harder for predators to follow their flight.

Some interesting features of the Blue Morpho include:

  • Bright blue iridescent color
  • Unique wing structure for selective light reflection
  • Flashes of blue for defense against predators

So, next time you’re exploring a tropical environment in Central or South America, keep an eye out for the alluring and elusive Blue Morpho butterfly.

Footnotes

  1. https://entnemdept.ufl.edu/creatures/bfly/blue_morpho.htm 2

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Morpho Caterpillar Aggregation from Brazil

 

Possible Blue Morpho aggregate?
Thu, Apr 2, 2009 at 7:03 AM
We saw this caterpillar aggregate in the tropics in Brazil, we think it may be the Blue Morpho butterfly
Bill and Linda in Tustin
Brazil, in tropical forest

Unknown Caterpillar Aggregation
Unknown Caterpillar Aggregation

Hi Bill and Linda,
We aren’t sure what these phenomenal caterpillars are. They might be Morpho Caterpillars that are supposed to form aggregations. They look somewhat like a Morpho Caterpillar image we located, but not enough to say it is a match. Perhaps one of our readers can enlighten us as to the species, or family of these beauties.

Update: Mon, Apr 6, 2009 at 7:09 PM
Hello Bill and Linda,
These caterpillars, with their distinctive reddish coloration and intricate patterning, compare quite favorably with those of *Morpho telemachus* (sorry, no common name). Here are Internet photos from Mato Grosso, Brazil, and Manu, Peru:
http://k41.pbase.com/o6/69/756269/1/84768266.oLXDJgBO.morphorupsen2.JPG
http://www.papiliophotos.com/SearchImages/P-MOT357-2.jpg
Since we know little about this species’ larval range of individual variation, it’s also possible that your caterpillars may be of a very close relative, namely *Morpho cisseis* or (less likely) *Morpho hecuba* — both of which are lacking information on their immature stages. Please tell me: Where in Brazil did you photograph these larvae? Do you recall their size or approximate length? Thanks very much!
Best wishes,
Keith Wolfe

Update: Tue, Apr 7, 2009 at 6:42 PM
Hi Daniel,
Re: category/caterpillars-and-pupa/
I sure wish I knew why your website corrupts links by arbitrarily adding end-of-line spaces, as happened yet again with:
http://k41.pbase.com/o6/69/756269/1/84768266.oLXDJgBO.morphorupsen2.JPG
^ ^
I truly hate to keep bugging (pun intended) you with these snafus, so please let me know what I’m doing “wrong”. Thanks very much and best wishes!
Cheers,
Keith

Hi Keith,
Thanks for the followup “glitch” report. We know that we cannot just cut and paste from the email service to the website as web links do not make a smooth transition. It adds time to our posting, but we actually need to visit the site by clicking the link in the email and then pasting the url from the address bar when we are on the site, replacing the link information in the email. We then create a new link with that information. We did not do that with the link you have indicated because we were denied access. We suspect the site is either a pay site or one that requires previous registration. Since we were unable to visit the site directly, we did not eliminate the spaces in the URL. That is now corrected, but we are still unable to visit the site. Thanks for your diligence.
Daniel

Update: Thu, Apr 9, 2009 at 6:33 PM
Muchas gracias, Daniel, for your time and effort!  I don’t know why linking through the WTB site is “Forbidden”, when I have no such difficulty (never registered or paid anything), but in any case, attached is the picture in question.  Please feel free to post or ignore as you see appropriate.
Much obliged,
Keith
PS Just for the heck of it, try accessing the photo through your Gmail account (versus WTB server): http://k41.pbase.com/o6/69/756269/1/84768266.oLXDJgBO.morphorupsen2.JPG .

Thanks Keith,
That also came up forbidden, but when we googled Morpho telemachus Bosch, the name of the caterpillar and the surname of the photographer of the photo you attached, we were led to the image online.  We are posting a link to the image by Johan van ‘t Bosch of the Netherlands that you identified on a forum for Tropical Butterflies.

Letter 2 – Caterpillar Aggregation from Brazil: Morpho hercules hercules

 

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

Letter 3 – Caterpillar Aggregation in Argentina: Morphos perhaps???

 

Caterpillar Love?
Location: La Paz, Entre Ríos Province, Argentina
November 3, 2010 8:54 am
We found these last weekend in Entre Ríos Province, Argentina. What are they doing?
Signature: Gabriel and Andrés

Caterpillar Aggregation

Dear Gabriel and Andrés,
Often caterpillars, especially tropical caterpillars, form aggregations, most probably because there is safety in numbers.  We have gotten several letters in the past from South America with similar images including one from Peru this summer that was identified as Morpho telemachus, and another from Brazil last year that was identified by Keith Wolfe as Morpho telemachus.  Your caterpillars look very similar but slightly more furry.  We will try to contact Keith Wolfe to see if he can verify the identity of this interesting aggregation.

Keith Wolfe provides and identification
November 5, 2010
Hi Daniel,
These are the resting, gregarious — more about living, not love — caterpillars of Morpho epistrophus (previously known as M. catenaria/catenarius), seemingly on their customary hostplant of “coronilla”, Scutia buxifolia (Rhamnaceae).  They feed nocturnally, and have probably been slowly growing since the eggs were laid in January or February.  Here is the same species from nearby Santa Catarina, Brazil . . .
http://www.flickr.com/photos/adiastj/2106431937/sizes/l/
. . . and a very informative historical account of interest to Gabriel and Andrés:
http://proyectopanambi.blogspot.com/2009/06/panambi-moroti-la-bandera-nacional-que.html
Best wishes,
Keith

WOW that powder blue Morpho epistrophus is sure a beautiful butterfly.

Letter 4 – Caterpillar Aggregation in Peru: Morpho telemachus

 

peruvian caterpillars
Location:  peruvian/bolivian border by rainforest
August 15, 2010 2:15 pm
Hi,
I spent a few days near the Bolivian border in a rainforest lodge,These caterpillars were on a tree near the lodge.The butterflies were drinking from a muddy bit on the path I was using.Nobody at the lodge could help me.Can you identify these, especially the caterpillars.Would love to know what they hatched into.
lesley

Caterpillar Aggregation: Morpho telemachus

Hi Lesley,
Back in 2009, with the assistance of Keith Wolfe, we were able to post an identification of a similar Caterpillar Aggregation from Brazil as
Morpho telemachus.  Here is a link to the Neotropical Butterflies website that identifies these caterpillars as Morpho telemachus.  There is no photo of a butterfly attached to your email, only a duplicate of the caterpillar image.

Hi,
thanks so much.I have only just found your site  and I am sure I will use it again and again. I am really really thrilled to identify these.Thanks again,
Lesley
ps not surprised butterfly photo not attached, poar for the course with me! will find and forward.

Letter 5 – Morpho from Brazil

 

Morpho butterfly
Hello,
I took this picture in the state of Minas Gerais in Brazil, close to Belo Horizonte. I think that this is of the Morpho genus, as it was quite similar to Morpho menelaus; however, the forewing seems to have only one eyespot as opposed to all of the photos I have seen on where the menelaus have more. Any thoughts? Thanks,
Ryan

Hi Ryan,
We are not sure what species your Morpho Butterfly is, but perhaps one of our readers can assist in the identification.

Letter 6 – Morpho helenor Caterpillar from Brazil

 

Morpho helenor
March 26, 2010
CATERPILLAR GENUS MORPHO,AMERICA SOUTH,REGION FOZ DO IGUAÇÚ-PARANÁ,BRAZIL.
EDUARDO LUCOF
BRAZIL-PARANÁ

Morpho helenor Caterpillar

Hi Eduardo,
Thanks for sending in the beautiful image of a Morpho helenor Caterpillar, though we wonder how you acquired the photo since Roberto Rezende is the name on the copyright.

Letter 7 – Morpho helena from Ecuador

 

Butterfly Identification
November 18, 2009
Do you know what type of butterfly/moth this is? I took this picture in Ecuador
doesnt matter
Ecuador, south america

Morpho Butterfly
Morpho Butterfly

Dear doesnt matter,
This is a Morpho Butterfly, but we are uncertain of the exact species.  Since we have a book to finish, we cannot spend the time trying to get an exact species.  Perhaps Karl will come to our assistance.

Hi Daniel:
I would say this is a this Helenor Morpho (Morph helenor). There are a number of sub-species, some of which look quite different – my inclination is to go with M. helenor helenor. It occurs throughout the Amazon basin. It’s a very nice photo. In my experience, Morphos don’t pose very often and when they do they usually don’t spread their wings so nicely. Regards.
Karl

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Morpho Caterpillar Aggregation from Brazil

 

Possible Blue Morpho aggregate?
Thu, Apr 2, 2009 at 7:03 AM
We saw this caterpillar aggregate in the tropics in Brazil, we think it may be the Blue Morpho butterfly
Bill and Linda in Tustin
Brazil, in tropical forest

Unknown Caterpillar Aggregation
Unknown Caterpillar Aggregation

Hi Bill and Linda,
We aren’t sure what these phenomenal caterpillars are. They might be Morpho Caterpillars that are supposed to form aggregations. They look somewhat like a Morpho Caterpillar image we located, but not enough to say it is a match. Perhaps one of our readers can enlighten us as to the species, or family of these beauties.

Update: Mon, Apr 6, 2009 at 7:09 PM
Hello Bill and Linda,
These caterpillars, with their distinctive reddish coloration and intricate patterning, compare quite favorably with those of *Morpho telemachus* (sorry, no common name). Here are Internet photos from Mato Grosso, Brazil, and Manu, Peru:
http://k41.pbase.com/o6/69/756269/1/84768266.oLXDJgBO.morphorupsen2.JPG
http://www.papiliophotos.com/SearchImages/P-MOT357-2.jpg
Since we know little about this species’ larval range of individual variation, it’s also possible that your caterpillars may be of a very close relative, namely *Morpho cisseis* or (less likely) *Morpho hecuba* — both of which are lacking information on their immature stages. Please tell me: Where in Brazil did you photograph these larvae? Do you recall their size or approximate length? Thanks very much!
Best wishes,
Keith Wolfe

Update: Tue, Apr 7, 2009 at 6:42 PM
Hi Daniel,
Re: category/caterpillars-and-pupa/
I sure wish I knew why your website corrupts links by arbitrarily adding end-of-line spaces, as happened yet again with:
http://k41.pbase.com/o6/69/756269/1/84768266.oLXDJgBO.morphorupsen2.JPG
^ ^
I truly hate to keep bugging (pun intended) you with these snafus, so please let me know what I’m doing “wrong”. Thanks very much and best wishes!
Cheers,
Keith

Hi Keith,
Thanks for the followup “glitch” report. We know that we cannot just cut and paste from the email service to the website as web links do not make a smooth transition. It adds time to our posting, but we actually need to visit the site by clicking the link in the email and then pasting the url from the address bar when we are on the site, replacing the link information in the email. We then create a new link with that information. We did not do that with the link you have indicated because we were denied access. We suspect the site is either a pay site or one that requires previous registration. Since we were unable to visit the site directly, we did not eliminate the spaces in the URL. That is now corrected, but we are still unable to visit the site. Thanks for your diligence.
Daniel

Update: Thu, Apr 9, 2009 at 6:33 PM
Muchas gracias, Daniel, for your time and effort!  I don’t know why linking through the WTB site is “Forbidden”, when I have no such difficulty (never registered or paid anything), but in any case, attached is the picture in question.  Please feel free to post or ignore as you see appropriate.
Much obliged,
Keith
PS Just for the heck of it, try accessing the photo through your Gmail account (versus WTB server): http://k41.pbase.com/o6/69/756269/1/84768266.oLXDJgBO.morphorupsen2.JPG .

Thanks Keith,
That also came up forbidden, but when we googled Morpho telemachus Bosch, the name of the caterpillar and the surname of the photographer of the photo you attached, we were led to the image online.  We are posting a link to the image by Johan van ‘t Bosch of the Netherlands that you identified on a forum for Tropical Butterflies.

Letter 2 – Caterpillar Aggregation from Brazil: Morpho hercules hercules

 

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

Letter 3 – Caterpillar Aggregation in Argentina: Morphos perhaps???

 

Caterpillar Love?
Location: La Paz, Entre Ríos Province, Argentina
November 3, 2010 8:54 am
We found these last weekend in Entre Ríos Province, Argentina. What are they doing?
Signature: Gabriel and Andrés

Caterpillar Aggregation

Dear Gabriel and Andrés,
Often caterpillars, especially tropical caterpillars, form aggregations, most probably because there is safety in numbers.  We have gotten several letters in the past from South America with similar images including one from Peru this summer that was identified as Morpho telemachus, and another from Brazil last year that was identified by Keith Wolfe as Morpho telemachus.  Your caterpillars look very similar but slightly more furry.  We will try to contact Keith Wolfe to see if he can verify the identity of this interesting aggregation.

Keith Wolfe provides and identification
November 5, 2010
Hi Daniel,
These are the resting, gregarious — more about living, not love — caterpillars of Morpho epistrophus (previously known as M. catenaria/catenarius), seemingly on their customary hostplant of “coronilla”, Scutia buxifolia (Rhamnaceae).  They feed nocturnally, and have probably been slowly growing since the eggs were laid in January or February.  Here is the same species from nearby Santa Catarina, Brazil . . .
http://www.flickr.com/photos/adiastj/2106431937/sizes/l/
. . . and a very informative historical account of interest to Gabriel and Andrés:
http://proyectopanambi.blogspot.com/2009/06/panambi-moroti-la-bandera-nacional-que.html
Best wishes,
Keith

WOW that powder blue Morpho epistrophus is sure a beautiful butterfly.

Letter 4 – Caterpillar Aggregation in Peru: Morpho telemachus

 

peruvian caterpillars
Location:  peruvian/bolivian border by rainforest
August 15, 2010 2:15 pm
Hi,
I spent a few days near the Bolivian border in a rainforest lodge,These caterpillars were on a tree near the lodge.The butterflies were drinking from a muddy bit on the path I was using.Nobody at the lodge could help me.Can you identify these, especially the caterpillars.Would love to know what they hatched into.
lesley

Caterpillar Aggregation: Morpho telemachus

Hi Lesley,
Back in 2009, with the assistance of Keith Wolfe, we were able to post an identification of a similar Caterpillar Aggregation from Brazil as
Morpho telemachus.  Here is a link to the Neotropical Butterflies website that identifies these caterpillars as Morpho telemachus.  There is no photo of a butterfly attached to your email, only a duplicate of the caterpillar image.

Hi,
thanks so much.I have only just found your site  and I am sure I will use it again and again. I am really really thrilled to identify these.Thanks again,
Lesley
ps not surprised butterfly photo not attached, poar for the course with me! will find and forward.

Letter 5 – Morpho from Brazil

 

Morpho butterfly
Hello,
I took this picture in the state of Minas Gerais in Brazil, close to Belo Horizonte. I think that this is of the Morpho genus, as it was quite similar to Morpho menelaus; however, the forewing seems to have only one eyespot as opposed to all of the photos I have seen on where the menelaus have more. Any thoughts? Thanks,
Ryan

Hi Ryan,
We are not sure what species your Morpho Butterfly is, but perhaps one of our readers can assist in the identification.

Letter 6 – Morpho helenor Caterpillar from Brazil

 

Morpho helenor
March 26, 2010
CATERPILLAR GENUS MORPHO,AMERICA SOUTH,REGION FOZ DO IGUAÇÚ-PARANÁ,BRAZIL.
EDUARDO LUCOF
BRAZIL-PARANÁ

Morpho helenor Caterpillar

Hi Eduardo,
Thanks for sending in the beautiful image of a Morpho helenor Caterpillar, though we wonder how you acquired the photo since Roberto Rezende is the name on the copyright.

Letter 7 – Morpho helena from Ecuador

 

Butterfly Identification
November 18, 2009
Do you know what type of butterfly/moth this is? I took this picture in Ecuador
doesnt matter
Ecuador, south america

Morpho Butterfly
Morpho Butterfly

Dear doesnt matter,
This is a Morpho Butterfly, but we are uncertain of the exact species.  Since we have a book to finish, we cannot spend the time trying to get an exact species.  Perhaps Karl will come to our assistance.

Hi Daniel:
I would say this is a this Helenor Morpho (Morph helenor). There are a number of sub-species, some of which look quite different – my inclination is to go with M. helenor helenor. It occurs throughout the Amazon basin. It’s a very nice photo. In my experience, Morphos don’t pose very often and when they do they usually don’t spread their wings so nicely. Regards.
Karl

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Authors

  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

    View all posts
  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

    View all posts
Tags: Morpho Butterfly

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2 Comments. Leave new

  • Hello Bill and Linda,

    These caterpillars, with their distinctive reddish coloration and intricate patterning, compare quite favorably with those of *Morpho telemachus* (sorry, no common name). Here are Internet photos from Mato Grosso, Brazil, and Manu, Peru:

    http://k41.pbase.com/o6/69/756269/1/84768266.oLXDJgBO.morphorupsen2.JPG
    http://www.papiliophotos.com/SearchImages/P-MOT357-2.jpg

    Since we know little about this species’ larval range of individual variation, it’s also possible that your caterpillars may be of a very close relative, namely *Morpho cisseis* or (less likely) *Morpho hecuba* — both of which are lacking information on their immature stages. Please tell me: Where in Brazil did you photograph these larvae? Do you recall their size or approximate length? Thanks very much!

    Best wishes,

    Keith Wolfe

    Reply
  • bill and linda
    April 15, 2009 3:59 pm

    Hi Keith! We saw them at Christalino Jungle Lodge in the Amazon near the Alta Floresta area. They were about 3.5 inches long or the size of a your middle finger
    THANKS! Bill and Linda

    Reply

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