Common Blue Morpho (Morpho peleides)
Morpho butterfly species are among the most well known of neotropical butterflies and with good reason. Most species have incredible, iridescent, shining blue wings that resemble wrapping paper or satin. The Common Blue Morpho is the most common representative of these showy butterflies in Costa Rica and is one that you will probably see if you keep your eye out for them no matter what sort of activity you choose to do.
The identification of the Common Blue Morpho is pretty straightforward; look for a large butterfly with flashing blue upper wings bordered in black. Like other blue morpho species, when it flys, it appears as if the blue is flashing on and off because the underwings are mottled gray and white. When these butterflies rest, they hold their wings up, thus concealing the bright blue coloration, and only showing the camouflaged underwing. Several eye spots, known as ocelli, are visible although they aren’t as huge and prominent as those shown by the Owl Butterflies.
Behavior in Costa Rica
Morphos flap along on large shining wings through the lower parts of forested habitats in search of rotting fruit. Like many butterflies in the tropics, instead of mostly feeding on flower nectar, Morphos suck up the sugary juices of overripe fruit. This behavior can be seen in butterfly houses where old bananas are placed on feeders to the delight of morphos and other butterflies. For good photo opportunities in your hotel garden, you could probably attract morphos and other butterflies by placing an open, ripe banana in a quiet, shady spot.
Habitat and distribution in Costa Rica
The Common Blue Morpho occurs in forest and second growth habitats throughout Costa Rica from the lowlands up into the cloud forest zone. They even occur in coffee and banana plantations (and are considered a pest in the latter). Morpho species in general are especially common along rivers and streams.