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Facts About the Glasswing Butterfly
Facts for Kids on the Blue Morpho Butterfly
Most insects don’t bring to mind words synonymous with beautiful, but there is one exception to this rule – butterflies. These delicate creatures come in many shapes, forms and sizes; they occupy most regions of the earth, specifically warm and tropical regions. The types of butterflies are so diverse that one type – the glasswing butterfly – has clear, transparent wings.
The most obvious fact relating to the glasswing butterfly is that it contains transparent wings, usually with an outline of black or orange -- although the colors can vary. This unique characteristic occurs because the butterfly has no colored scales, which account for the color variations on most butterfly species. It has a wingspan of around 2 inches.
Most people know that many insects – such as ants – can lift many times their own body weight. If you ask most people about butterflies and strength, they’d probably never guess that, pound for pound, butterflies have ants beat by a mile. The glasswing is one especially strong species of butterfly. Although it might look weak, it has the ability to carry nearly 40 times its own weight. It is also very fast, with the ability to fly up to eight miles per hour for short periods of time.
Range and Type
The glasswing butterfly isn’t common all over the world. It is most well-known around Central America, extending up into portions of lower North America. The butterfly hails from the Lepidoptera order and Nymphalidae family.
Aster flowers hold a special place in the lives of the glasswing butterfly, as their nectar is critical to its survival. Not only does the flower play a role in feeding, but also in mating, as certain chemicals created by the flowers are subsequently used during mate attraction.
Pink Glasswing Butterfly
One special species of glasswing butterfly out there has a special “blush” look to it. The pink glasswing butterfly – which can be found in the Amazon region – has clear wings at the top, which turn pinkish towards the bottom, making for a butterfly with matching blushing wings.
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- UFL.edu; Glasswing Butterfly Lives in South America; October 2007
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The tribe Haeterini is confined exclusively to the neotropical region. All members of this tribe are elusive crepuscular butterflies which spend their lives skulking deep in the undergrowth. There are 5 genera - Pierella , Pseudohaetera , Haetera , Dulcedo and Cithaerias . All butterflies in the latter 4 genera have rounded transparent wings, with small ocelli at the apex of the hindwings.
T here is contention amongst taxonomists as to the true number of species in the genus Cithaerias . Some consider there to be as many as 15 species, but to quote Bernard d'Abrera "it all depends on how you define a species". The Lamas neotropical checklist ( 2005 ) only lists 5 - pireta ( previously known as menander ), andromeda , phantoma , pyritosa and pyropina .
The adults are almost always encountered singly. They are denizens of the darkest and dampest recesses of the rainforest, and appear to be very localised. The butterflies are crepuscular in nature - they can sometimes be found in the middle of the day, but are far more often encountered at dusk than at any other time.
The flight is low over the ground, skulking and phantom-like. The wing beats are deep and slow, but the butterfly is capable of moving rapidly if disturbed. Upon settling it usually turns quickly around, and tilts slightly forward so that the "false eye" on the underside hindwing is raised. This ocellus, together with the bright pink area, and the oval shape of the hindwings, may function to simulate the head of a small snake, deterring any bird, reptile or amphibian that detects where it has settled.
The butterflies tend to remain deep in the undergrowth, but emerge at dusk to feed at rotting palm fruits on the forest floor, or on fluids exuding from decomposing fungi. They remain stationary for long periods, but are easily put up, and if disturbed retreat into the undergrowth. However they are habitual in behaviour, and often return within a few minutes.
All photographs, artwork, text & website design are the property of Adrian Hoskins ( unless otherwise stated ) and are protected by Copyright. Photographs or text on this website must not be reproduced in part or in whole or published elsewhere without prior written consent of Adrian Hoskins / learnaboutbutterflies.com
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The Glasswing Butterfly
Note the blue wings on this butterfly from the Ithomiinae subfamily. This butterfly is actually a Glasswing Butterfly ; it's wings are as clear as glass. The stained-glass effect you see in this photo is actually just the effect of my strobe flashes.
You can see the vegetation behind these wings. The wings of these delicate jungle butterflies give them an ethereal elusive quality.
There are 370 Ithomiini clearwing butterflies in the world, ranging throughout Latin America. Their invisibility, along with their preference for certain types of plants, gives them a bizarre smell and taste that every type of animal, from bird to mammal to insect, despises.
These butterflies can afford to be delicate, ethereal jungle dwellers because they have cornered the market on assuring their safety by emitting unusual odors, making them unpalatable to everything that may wish to eat butterflies.
Why Do Glasswing Butterflies have Transparent Wings?
Scientists believe it's an effective form of camoflage in dim light situations. Indeed, when a Glasswing Butterfly is at rest, it appears to blend into the background, and it's non-transparent edges are hardly visible. Imagine a snake with its poor eyesight looking for prey in the tangled vines of the forest floor, and you'll see the evolutionary advantage of butterfly transparency.
Magazines Usually Refer to Only One Glasswing Butterfly, the Greta Oro. Are there others?
It's curious why one species of Glasswing tends to get all the attention. In fact, there are many dazzling species. For example, this the Pink Glasswing Butterfly, sometimes known as the Blushing Phantom. This transparent butterfly simply cannot be photographed. The effect in real life is of glowing pink matter floating through the dark jungle, one of the great sites of the rainforest to behold.
A Pink Glasswing Butterfly found in the jungle along the Napo River in eastern Ecuador.
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How many north american birds, flat porcelain crabs, wax-tail hoppers, glasswing butterflies, flower crab spiders, fairy moths, stumphumpers, the office katydid, toucans and toucanets.
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- Cithaerias pireta
This well camouflaged butterfly was spotted in the cloud forest of Santa Lucía.
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Quito, Provincia de Pichincha, Ecuador
Spotted on Dec 8, 2012 Submitted on Jul 20, 2013
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Blushing Phantom Butterfly - Cithaerias pireta (Topside)
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Blushing Phantom Butterfly - Cithaerias pireta
Cithaerias pireta is a species of butterfly within the Satyrinae family. However, unlike most other Satyrines (commonly known as “Browns”), C. merolina’s wings are mostly transparent, with a blushy patch of pink on each hindwing. Members of this species are generally weak fliers and also tend to avoid bright sunlight; they prefer moist, shaded habitats and are found in the largest numbers throughout the lower levels of the Peruvian Amazon. The rarely-seen adults may be spotted very low to the ground at dusk, feeding on rotting fruit and vegetation.
This blushy species makes quite the adorable specimen, and is an equally adorable way to decorate any space! Our all-natural, intact specimens (no fake parts here!) are all of first-rate quality, delicately prepared, mounted, and framed with double-glass glazing in our very own fabrication studio in Upstate New York.
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Blue Morpho Butterfly Facts
The facts and information about additional rainforest butterflies may be found on this page.
The Blue Morpho Butterfly has blue wings that are stunning. In South and Central America, it can be found in the tropical rainforests.
Those blue wings aren’t merely aesthetic, they’re functional! For a variety of reasons, they’ve developed that way. Let’s learn more about blue morphos and other facts. We’ll also take a look at some other rainforest butterflies.
Table of Contents
Blue Morpho Butterfly Information
Blue morphos, which range from South and Central America to North America, are huge, gorgeous blue butterflies that live in the woods. They are one of the most well-known butterflies and a popular rainforest species due to their unusual appearance and size.
It’s just the way the blue morpho’s wings reflect light that gives them the illusion of being blue.
In reality, there isn’t just one species represented by the “blue morpho.” Any blue butterfly of the genus Morpho can be referred to as a ‘blue morpho butterfly.’
Brown, green, and even white morphos are also possible. Morpho species number 29 in total.
The Nymphalidae family includes Morpho butterfiles.
Butterfly Body Parts
The head, thorax, and abdomen are the three primary body components of Blue Morphos, as with all butterflies.
Two front wings and two hind wings make up a blue morphos’ four-winged structure. The thorax connects the wings and six legs.
On its head, the butterfly has two clubbed antennae and other sensory organs. UV radiation is said to be quite harmful to Morphos’ eyes. As a result, males can see each other from afar.
The air around butterflies is tasted and smelled by their antennae.
The process of a blue morpho’s development is similar to that of (almost) all butterflies: egg, larva (caterpillar), pupa (chrysalis), and imago (adult). Later on in the page, we’ll learn more about the blue morpho’s life.
Blue Morpho butterflies have black edges to their blue wings. They have the world’s biggest butterflies, with wingspans of 5 to 8 inches (12.5 to 20 cm)
Blue Morpho Butterfly Wings Are Not Actually Blue!
The iridescent blue wings of the butterfly are its most notable feature. They appear to be shiny and metallic. They are, however, not blue at all!
The color of the butterfly’s wings is caused by the way light reflects off of tiny scales on its backs. It isn’t caused by pigmentation; rather, it is due to a phenomena called iridescence.
The scales have a tetrahedral (pyramid-shaped) structure that reflects light and is composed of four layers. Depending on the angle from which they are seen, the colors change.
Blue morpho’s wings appear to be blue but are in fact pink in hue as a consequence of this.
This is a phenomenon that happens in the feathers of certain birds and is known as “structural coloration.”
The eyespots (ocelli) and other gray, black, and red markings on the undersides of the blue morpho’s wings are a dull brown. The butterfly’s outline is broken up by the colors and patterns, which resemble foliage. When the morpho’s wings are closed, this is known as “crypsis,” and it provides superb camouflage.
The bigger eyespots may scare predators away at first glance, thinking they belong to a bigger animal.
The underside of a blue morpho butterfly’s wings.
The Blue Morpho’s wings change from brilliant blue to drab brown as it flies. As a result, the butterfly seems to reappear and vanish at random. This is known as “flashing” because it makes it more difficult for a predator to keep track of the morpho.
The blue morpho’s coloration is really stunning, as shown in the video below.
Blue Morpho Butterfly Males vs. Females
The male Blue Morpho has broader wings and a more vivid blue than the female. Males show off their brilliant wings to frighten opponents.
Males are territorial, and other males are chased away.
Blue Morpho Butterfly Facts: Habitat
From Mexico to South America, the Blue Morpho Butterfly may be found in forests.
Morphos will frequently fly into clearings to warm themselves in the bright sunlight, and will come down to the rainforest floor to feed. Around streams, they may also be seen.
Blue Morphos can be seen flying through all of the layers of the rainforest, searching for a partner, when looking for a relationship.
The blue morpho’s concealment has been described, as well as how its wings’ flashing may aid it escape predators. There are a couple more minor defense mechanisms …
Both sexes release a strong odor from a gland between their front legs when they are threatened.
Blue Morphos feed on hazardous chemicals in certain foods as caterpillars. This is thought to make them dangerous to predators as adults.
Blue Morpho Butterfly Diet
Blue morphos, which feed on the leaves of pea family plants, are caterpillars that eat various types of leaves.
The caterpillars of adult blue morpho butterflies can only sip. They accomplish it by extending their proboscis, which is a long, coiled mouthpart that rolls out to enable them to consume liquids.
Rotting fruit, tree sap, rotting animals, and fungus are all used by Blue Morphos to consume.
On butterfly feet, there are taste sensors.
Blue Morpho Butterfly Life Cycle
The Blue Morpho lives for around four months in the wild. Feeding and reproducing account for the majority of their time.
The egg, larva (caterpillar), pupa (chrysalis), and imago (adult) are the four stages in the life cycle of butterflies.
Metamorphosis is the term for the stages of development that they go through throughout their life cycle. Let’s look at each of the four phases of life in more detail.
Little yellow eggs are deposited on a leaf by the blue morpho. The eggs are spherical and resemble dewdrops.
A caterpillar emerges from an egg. It’s covered in stinging hairs for protection and is reddish-brown with bright lime green spots on its back. Human skin may be irritated by these hairs. Caterpillars eat a variety of plants during the day. The caterpillar will release a fluid that resembles rancid butter if it is disturbed.
A plant is holding the green chrysalis. Inside this protective case, the insect undergoes its last transformation.
The exquisite butterfly emerges from the chrysalis after a period of time. It’s time to start feeding and reproducing now. This phase lasts between three and four weeks for blue morphos.
Both males and femen release a powerful odor from a gland between their front legs when they’re threatened.
Blue Morphos eat poisonous chemicals in certain foods as caterpillars. As adults, this may make them hazardous to predators.
Because of the brown, mottled underside of their wings, adults are well-camouflaged when they fold their wings. In addition, the butterfly’s constant vanishing then reappearance while flying attracts predators and makes it difficult for them to follow it.
Blue morphos, as caterpillars, consume the leaves of a variety of plants, with peas being their favorite.
Adult blue morpho butterflies can only sip because they are unable to ‘eat. They do it by a coiled proboscis, or drinking straw, which unwinds to enable them to drink liquids: just like a drinking straw.
Rotting fruit, tree sap, decaying animals and fungus are all consumed by Blue Morphos.
Butterflies have taste sensors on their feet, much like humans.
Blue Morpho Predators & Threats
Various potential predators, such as lizards, frogs, and birds, are faced by blue morphos in the rainforest. The jacamar and flycatcher are two birds that are known to eat blue morphos.
Deforestation and habitat fragmentation threaten blue morphos, although they are not officially endangered like many rainforest species.
The Blue Morpho butterfly is threatened by humans as well. Collectors and artists alike are drawn to the butterfly because of its beauty.
Other Rainforest Butterflies
In the subtropical rainforest of South America, there are over 2,000 distinct butterfly species.
Some of the other butterflies seen throughout rainforests globally include:
Large, blue-green butterflies found in Australia’s rainforests are called birdwings.
Large butterflies with ornate tails, swallowtails are common. They, too, have beautiful wings with speckled undersides like morphos.
Dead-wood Leaf Nymph Butterfly
The dead-wood Leaf nymphs resemble dead leaves, making them a safe bet for protection. They prefer to fly close to the ground and are found in the understory of the forest.
Amber Phantom Butterfly
The rounded, transparent wings of amber phantom butterflies are well-known. They may be found in shaded and undergrowth areas. During the day, they’re generally dormant, but at night, they emerge.
Blushing Phantom Butterfly
The transparent wings of Blushing Phantoms have patches of pink at the base that give the insects the appearance of being blush.
The eyespots on the owl butterfly are enormous and resemble owl eyes.
- The flight of blue morphos is sluggish and shaky.
- Before becoming chrysalises, blue morpho caterpillars moult five times.
- Pilots flying through the rainforest can see blue morphos.
- Only when it is time for mating do blue morphos come together.
- The butterflies seem to change shape as they fly, hence the term morpho.
- Not all Morphos are iridescent, but all have eyespots.
- Diurnal (active during the day) insects include Blue Morphos.
- The blue morpho butterfly has a long list of superstitions among the indigenous people of the rainforest. Insects are thought to be either malevolent spirits or wish granters.
- Tropical rainforests have more butterflies than any other region on Earth.
- A White Morpho butterfly is also a species. Its iridescent white wings, which appear purple when viewed from certain perspectives, are very unusual.
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