Morpho menelaus

Physical characteristics: Both males and females have shiny blue wings that change color slightly depending on the angle of light. The upper sides of the male's wings are mostly bright blue. Female's wings are duller, with brown edges and white spots surrounding blue. The undersides of the wings of both males and females are brown with bronze eyespots. Their wingspans measure up to 6 inches (150 millimeters) across. The larvae are reddish brown with bright patches of lime green and reddish brown with white tufts of hair on the back.

Blue morphos are found in South America, from the Guianas to Brazil and Bolivia. (Illustration by Patricia Ferrer. Reproduced by permission)

Geographic range: This species is found in South America, from the Guianas to Brazil and Bolivia.

Habitat: This species lives in wet humid forests.

Diet: Adults suck juices from rotting fruit, while the larvae feed on the leaves of Erythroxylum pilchrum.

Behavior and reproduction: Adults fly through the forest in a series of blue flashes as their wings open and close. They are perfectly camouflaged when at rest with their wings closed. The males are very territorial and use their bright blue wings to scare off other males. The larvae feed at night. When threatened they release a strong smell from a gland that opens between their front legs.

Nothing is known of their reproductive behavior.

Blue morphos and people: The surface sculpturing of each scale on the morpho wings create the shimmering blue color that brightens or fades depending on the direction of the light. This quality has suggested security measures for use in paper money and credit cards to prevent them from being copied illegally.

Conservation status: This species is not considered endangered or threatened. ■

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