Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Blue Morpho Butterfly....A Natural Beauty in Costa Rica!

Hard to believe, but there are almost 24,000 species of butterflies the World. One of the prettiest and most impressive species are the Blue Morpho butterflies. Not only are these beautiful butterflies common to Costa Rica, but they are one of the most sought after species by collectors and nature lovers alike who seek to experience them in their natural habitat, as they mesmerize you with their incredible bright blue metallic coloring that serves as an incredible contrast to the lush green rainforests of our Central America paradise.

If you'd like to learn more about these delicate rainforest treasures, read on......

Common Name: Blue Morpho Butterfly

Type: Insect

Family: Nymphalidae

Range: Common to the tropical rainforests of Central America and South America. Blue Morphos are found primarily in forests
in Central and South America, with high concentrations in both Mexico and Costa Rica. These incredible insects are easily spotted by their large beautiful bright blue wings that reflect light as they fly by in their distinctly erratic pattern.

Size: Blue Morphos average approximately 5 – 6 inches wide, though some species will be smaller.

Diet: The blue morpho’s diet changes as it passes through each stage of life. As a caterpillar, the Blue Morpho chews leaves.
When it "morphs" to become a butterfly, it begins to drink its food instead, using a long, protruding mouthpart called a proboscis as a literal drinking straw. They use this to sip the juice of rotting fruit, the fluids of decomposing animals, tree sap, fungi and wet mud. Blue Morphos can actually taste fruit with sensors located on their legs, and they “taste-smell” the air with their sensitive antennae, which function as a combined tongue and nose on the go.

Average life span: The life span of the Blue Morpho butterfly is short. They generally live only 115 days, with most of their time focused on feeding and reproduction.

Habitat: Blue Morphos can mostly be found in the tropical forests of Latin America spanning from Mexico to Colombia, with a
large population found in Costa Rica. Adult morphos spend the majority of their time on the forest floor or the lower shrubs and trees under the jungle canopy with their wings folded for protection from predators. However, at the time of searching for mates, the blue morphos can fly through all layers of the forest attracting attention with their incredible iridescent blue wings.

Breeding/Reproduction: Although butterflies are some of God's most beautiful creatures, they mostly just reproduce and sadly die immediately after laying their eggs. The male butterflies release chemicals called pheromones in their wings to attract as many females as possible in their pursuit for successful reproduction. The female’s eggs are fertilized, at which time they lay them in a safe place and fly off leaving them on their own for hatching. The surviving eggs will hatch after only nine days.

Blue Morpho Butterfly: Belonging to the family of Nymphalidaes, these beauties acquired their name "Morpho" which means “changed” because of its ability to appear like they are changing colors when in flight. This is largely due to the
butterfly’s prominent wings which can span from five to eight inches. The changing color effect is often a result of the ventral or the front of the wing which is dull brown and covered with a series of different sized eyespots. These eyespots serve to protect the butterflies from predators such as birds and insects, as when they close their wings are show these eyespots, predators are more inclined to peck or attack the "eye" as opposed to the
butterfly body. When the morpho opens its wings, the dorsal or the back part of this insect is bright blue with the edges of the wings being black or a darker shade. This bright blue coloring is actually the result of the microscopic scales which reflect light, so when the blue morpho flaps its wings upon flying the bright blue back is in contrast to the front or underwings dull brown. This is what makes them look like they are appearing and disappearing as they fly erratically through the air. The male blue morpho has broader wings then the females and it appears to generally be brighter in color, while the female of this species has duller blue wings with sporadic white spots along the brown edging.

Life Cycle: The Blue Morpho’s life cycle starts when the eggs are hatched into larvae. The larvae becomes a recognizable
caterpillar with distinct brownish red with green patches along the back. These caterpillar have prickly hair that can irritate predators when threatened or attacked. These caterpillars mostly eat on leaves, especially favoring plants from the pea family. The caterpillar then forms a jade colored green chrysalis to start metamorphosis. A short time later an adult blue morpho butterfly emerges. At this stage since they still do not
have the ability to chew, so they drink for nourishment
instead. As mentioned above, at this stage they still use their proboscis to sip fluids of rotten fruits, tree saps, certain fungus' and even wet mud. They also eventually use sensors on their legs to taste fruits, while their antennae act like a combo tongue and nose to “taste-smell” the air while in search of food.

While spending time in Costa Rica, please remember that the Blue Morphos only have a life span of 115 days. Even with these few months to live, they also are constantly threatened by their natural predators (more birds than anything), as well as the constant threat they face due to habitat destruction by loggers, farmers and urban development. Lastly, sadly humans continue to be a threat due to their fascination to want to capture and display these beautiful insects to show off the bright and beautiful colors these beautiful butterflies display.

When staying at your Costa Rica Hotel, please don't support this destructive market by buying or encouraging the sale or displays of the Blue Morpho, their continued existence depends on your good conscience! Happy Travels to all, I hope you get to see a Blue Morpho during your vacation! Pura Vida!

Fun Facts:
• When the blue morpho flies, the contrasting bright blue and dull brown colors flash, making it look like the morpho is appearing and disappearing.
• The "blue butterfly" has spiritual meaning for many native people of the rainforest, who see it either as a wish-granter or the complete opposite....a malicious spirit.
• Blue morphos, like all butterflies, taste with sensors on their legs and taste-smell the air with their antennae to help them detect food while in flight.
• Their beauty is brief: the entire blue morpho life cycle lasts only 115 days, so enjoy while you can.
• If disturbed, Blue Morpho caterpillars will secrete a fluid that smells similar to rancid butter.
• The tufts of hair found on the caterpillars will irritate human skin.

LEARN MORE:


Author: Kimberly Barron, originally from Malibu, California has lived in Parismina and Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica for 20 years. Starting as a certified tour guide, she spent 15 years managing fishing lodges on the Caribbean Coast and later 4* & 5* Hotels on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. Currently semi-retired, Kimberly still works as the Marketing Director for Byblos Resort & Casino and Hotel Makanda by the Sea.

Sources:
http://www.costaricajourneys.com/blue-morpho-butterfly/ by shamsul
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morpho

1 comment:

  1. That's really cute photo of the kid with a butterfly on her nose. I sneezed when a butterfly was place on my nose once and it never wanted to go back. It's really nice to see them up close and personal, yeah with the butterflies.

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