Kingdom:  Animalia
Phylum:    Arthropoda
Class:         Insecta
Order:       Lepidoptera
Family:     Nymphalida
Genus:      Morpho
Species:     peides










Blue Morpho Butterfly (Morpho peledes)

By Gillian Gail

Morpho peleides is commonly known as the Blue Morpho butterfly.  Their name comes from the fact that when they are flying it looks like they are morphing in flight.  The top of their wings are an iridescent blue that is very reflective, while the underside of their wings are a duller brown with spots that resemble eyes to help the butterfly blend into the environment when not in flight. 

They are one of the largest butterflies in the world, with a wingspan between of 5-8 inches. The butterflies shown above have a wing span or about 6 inches. Blue Morphos live in the tropical forest of Central and South America. Pilots that fly over the rainforest have reported seeing the flickering of the wings in the canopy of the trees. While these are beautiful butterflies they only have a lifespan of about 115 days.



The bright blue coloring on the back of their wings is made up of many tiny scales.   These scales have ridges that reflect the light around them creating the blue color. Despite the fact that they are not actually blue they look blue because of the ridges in the scales.   If the butterfly were to get their wings wet with something with a higher refractive index then air (in the case of the images below 70% rubbing alcohol was used), the color of their wings would change from a vibrant blue to a muddy brown.   The refractive index changes the wavelength of the light we see and thus the color of the butterfly.   

The Blue Morpho also has black edgings around the blue. The edgings have white dots on the black to make it seem more dangerous to potential predators.

The underside of the butterfly has spots that resemble eyes. This characteristic allows the butterfly to blend in with its environment.  The brown underside with the spots often times make people think that this side is a completely different butterfly, rather then the same butterfly as the iridescent blue side.   That confusion it creates is a survival technique to stay unharmed from predators. 



Like all other butterflies the Blue Morpho does not eat it’s food but rather drinks it’s food in the adult butterfly stage.  This is done by their proboscis, the protruding mouthpart that acts as a drinking straw to sip juice from rotting fruit in the rainforest.  They use their antennae as a combined tongue and nose, to “taste and smell” their food from the air around them.    They also use the sensors on their legs to taste the food they eat. The Blue Morpho's body like anyother butterfly can be broken into three segmants, the head, thorax, and abdomen. This can bee seen in the two images below.




Photographic Equipment and Techniques

These photographs were taken using a Nikon D300s, a 60mm Macro Lens, Nikon PB-6 bellows and a 50mm Thimble Lens.  The light used was a fiber optic and a circular diffuser around the subject reflecting the light around the subject.   The larger images were then placed into Photoshop where they were stacked and then mapped together to create the whole image in focus.

Figure 7: Set up for holding the butterfly

In order to make the images of the butterfly from a top and bottom view a flattening stand was made for the butterfly to flatten out after being closed up for an extended period of time.  This was done using foam core, some wax paper and 4 thumbtacks. The foam core was put together with two smaller pieces on top a a third larger peice(as seen above). This left space for the body of the butterfly to sit without becoming damaged while the wings flattened out.


About Me

Gillian Gail is currently in her 4th year at Rochester Insiuite of Technology. She is studying Biomedical Photographic Communications and expects to graduate in May 2012. She can be reached by email at