5 facts about the incredible blue morpho butterfly

May 5, 2016, 6 a.m.
morpho blue butterfly, Panama
Photo: Ondrej Prosicky/Shutterstock

1. The blue morpho butterfly is a large butterfly species with a wingspan of up to 8 inches — yet some individuals can have a wingspan as small as 3 inches.

2. As adults, blue morphos must drink their meals. They find nutrition in everything from fermenting fruit and tree sap to fungi, decomposing animals and even mud.

3. Though beautiful, they can be smelly. When threatened, adult butterflies will release a pungent smell from a gland located between their front legs. The stink helps deter predators.

4. Blue morphos have a short lifespan. From egg to adult, the insect lives for only around 115 days. Once they break out of the cocoon as adults, they live only about a month.

5. Blue morpho butterflies aren't actually colored blue. The tetrahedral-shaped scales on the tops of their wings reflect light in such a way that we see blue. The way the scales interact with light has inspired scientists to look more closely at ways to mimic the structures in technology for everything from preventing counterfeiting of money to energy-efficient color displays for devices.