Blue Butterfly: Meaning And Characteristics

Morpho Menelaus Photo: By Derkarts - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=14538905

A blue butterfly symbolically means joy, beauty, and luck and is thought to grant wishes. Below, we discuss the characteristics that make the blue butterfly special.

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There are various species of blue butterflies throughout the world. These butterflies are often seen in movies and other works of fiction, but what are their characteristics and what meaning do they have in works of fiction/cultural works?

Morpho

Morpho facts:

  • Wingspan varies between 7.5 cm (3.0 in) to 20 cm (7.9 in)
  • 29 known species with 150 subspecies
  • Lifespan is around 115-120 days
A Morpho butterfly and the structural pattern of its wings. Photo: By Radislav A. Potyrailo et al. – http://www.nature.com/ncomms/2015/150901/ncomms8959/full/ncomms8959.html, CC BY 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=45030843

Arguably the most striking blue butterflies are those of the genus Morpho. The Morpho genus of butterflies are subtropical and they can be found across the Amazon and Atlantic Forest (found on the Atlantic coast of South America). As such species of Morpho can be seen all across Central and South America. Morphos are capable of breeding in a variety of different forest types, including cloud forest, rainforest, and dry deciduous forest.

The Morpho genus contains about 29 recognized species and more than 140 known subspecies, making it a very diverse genus. Well known species of Morpho include Morpho cypris, Morpho didius, Morpho peleides, and Morpho menelaus, all of which are sometimes referred to as the Blue Morpho.

Morphos are usually about 7.5 cm (3 inches) from tip to tip of their wings. Though one species, the sunset Morpho, can grow to be about 20 centimeters (7.9 inches).

Morphos are known for their vivid and striking coloration, which is usually shades of blue and green. The colors of the Morpho aren’t created through pigment though. The colors of the Morpho arise from the structure of their scales, a type of coloring called structural coloration. Morpho butterflies live about 120 days, and like most butterflies, they mainly feed on nectar and plant leaves.

Common Blue

Photo: By Charlesjsharp – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=42475690

The common blue butterfly belongs to the genus Polyommatinae. It is mainly found in the eastern hemisphere, throughout Europe, the British Isles, and North Africa. It can also be found in the Canary Isles, off the coast of Morocco.

The common blue butterfly is between 28 millimeters to 36 millimeters (1 inch to 1.4 inches) in length. The males of the species are often a soft blue color, though they will usually have red spots on them. The wings of the females are more likely to be brown, with tinges of blue and orange throughout. Common blue butterflies use pigments to color their wings. The common blue butterfly usually lives for around 3 weeks as a butterfly and for about nine days as a larva.

The common blue butterfly has recently seen a massive die-off due to habitat destruction, though it has recently established itself in Canada.

Mission Blue Butterfly

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Mission Blue Facts:

  • 21 to 32 millimeters (0.82 to 1.3 inches) in length
  • Classified critically imperiled by The Nature Conservency
  • Larva feeds only one three different lupine plants
Photo: Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

The Mission Blue butterfly is a species of the genus Aricia, and it’s native to the San Francisco Bay area. The butterfly has a wingspan of approximately 21 to 32 millimeters (0.82 to 1.3 inches) in length.

The males of the species have a distinct icy blue color to them with sky blue wingtips. The blue of their wingtips sometime appears as purple when photographed. Under direct sunlight, the blue is quite pronounced. The females of the species have dark brown wings. The larvae of the species are quite small and feed on just three plants native to the Bay Area. The adult butterflies feed off the nectar of many flowers, though preferably sunflowers.

The Mission Blue butterfly is considered endangered and as such is protected by the US federal government. There are a number of ongoing programs that attempt to protect the habitat of the Mission Blue.

Karner Blue Butterfly

Photo: By Hollingsworth, J & K – U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service National Digital Library: WO-5309-020, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1216948

The Karner Blue butterfly can be found throughout much of the Great Lakes region in the United States. Its habitat even extends to parts of New Jersey. The butterfly may depend upon a blue lupine flower to live and the destruction of this flower and its habitat has likely endangered the Karner Blue.

The Karner blue butterfly is about 2.5 centimeters (one inch) in wingspan. The males and females of the species are different in coloration, with the females having a grayish brown color on the underside of their wings and a light blue portion on the topside of the wings. The top of the male butterfly is dark blue or silvery blue, with an orange trim around the edges of the wings.

Studies have found that the presence of wild lupine flowers is positively correlated with the presence of the Karner blue butterfly, and the butterfly seems to use it as a food source. The Karner Blue has two different broods a year, one in mid to late April and one in the late summer. The timing of the brood hatching follows the growth of the wild lupine plants it depends on very tightly. The larvae of the Karner blue butterflies have a mutualistic relationship with a variety of ant species. The ants tend to the larvae of the butterflies, protecting them from predatory insects while consuming a sugary substance excreted by the caterpillar.

Eastern Tailed-Blue

Photo: D. Gordon E. Robertson via Wikimedia Commons, CC 3.0

The Eastern-tailed blue butterfly is native to North America, though sightings have been reported in Central America. The species is part of the genus Cupido and it is about 21 to 29 mm (0.8 inches to 1.1 inches) from wingtip to wingtip. The males of the species are a bright blue color on top, with a black trim running around the outside of the wings. The females of the species are usually a lighter shade of blue or brown. The caterpillars of the species feed on various legumes and seeds.

Symbolism

In works of fiction and in culture, blue butterflies are usually representative of life or rebirth. Butterflies themselves are often associated with beauty and the springtime, a time of renewed growth and life. The blue color of butterflies can represent a number of different things, from happiness to sadness depending on the depiction in question.

Blue butterflies often symbolize hope or peace. Blue butterflies have even represented a person’s spirit. Butterflies are often associated with femininity and young women. More recent works of fiction may use butterflies to symbolize change and unpredictability, thanks to the Butterfly Effect.

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Opinions expressed are solely the authors and do not express the views or opinions of Science Trends nor the author's institution.
Cite this article as:
Daniel Nelson, MS. Blue Butterfly: Meaning And Characteristics, Science Trends, 2018. Available at:
http://doi.org/10.31988/SciTrends.16358
*Note, DOIs are registered Friday weekly and therefore may not work until then.

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