In a land of beautiful butterflies, the Blue Morpho stands out as perhaps the most delightful creature to take flight in Costa Rican airspace.
This Central American country, which is roughly the size of West Virginia, features more than 1,250 species of butterflies, or approximately 10 percent of the butterfly species recognized worldwide. Whether you’re on the Caribbean or Pacific coasts, you can walk outside and spot a plethora of fascinating, multicolored butterflies fluttering in the breeze on a daily basis.
The Blue Morpho
Watching a Blue Morpho in action, you’ll immediately notice its flight-and-float pattern. Up and down they go, drifting through the humid Coast Rican climate with little effort being exuded. When a Blue Morpho is upset, however, or it notices something that doesn’t quite look right (a predator, perhaps?) its flight pattern takes a much more erratic route in hopes of avoiding danger.
The Blue Morpho actually uses its tantalizing appearance–bright blue on the upper wings and body with a black outline near the wingtips, and a darker shade of brown underneath–to confuse potential predators into thinking it’s something that it’s not. If the predator hesitates, that typically gives the witty butterfly enough time and space to escape potential peril.
The dazzling blue of the Blue Morpho’s upper wing surface is not actually a color; it’s due to the reflection and refraction of light from tiny ridges and pits on the scales covering the wings. For females, the blue is even less pronounced to the naked eye.
Most Blue Morphos grow to be 5 to 8 inches in width. Their diets are fairly simple, as rotting or fermenting fruits suffice as a standard meal. With wild fruits in abundance throughout Costa Rica, it’s no wonder these butterflies can thrive in this rugged jungle environment.
Despite its abundance at our vacation villas in Costa Rica, the Blue Morpho, in worldwide terms, is inching closer to extinction. The loss of natural habitats, by way of deforestation or other human interference, has negatively affected the species. Blue Morphos are also captured and killed for their wings, which are sold as jewelry items and other ornamental decorations. A fine line exists between celebrating the Blue Morpho and altering its existence. Keep this in mind as you shop for souvenirs throughout this country and beyond.
For photographers, the Blue Morpho can be a tough nut to crack. In order to capture its true splendor and colorful appearance, photogs need to shoot the butterfly while it’s in flight. When a Blue Morpho lands on a branch, it almost always does so with its wings closed. That being said, a high-speed camera with a quality lens comes highly recommended. You better have some endurance, too, as chasing butterflies is a blast when you’re a child but can be exhausting for a grownup with an expensive camera in his or her hands and the sun beating down on their neck. But in the end, if you can get the shot, it was worth every sunny second.