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Butterfly Wing Scale Digital Image Gallery

Blue Wing Butterfly

Blue wing butterflies glow as if illuminated by a celestial light. Only the Neotropical morpho butterflies surpass the brilliant blue hues of this Amazonian species. These lepidopterans sometimes have the appearance of being four-legged because their short, brush-like front legs often go unnoticed.

The modified pair of legs is a characteristic that places the blue wing butterflies in Nymphalidae, the largest of the butterfly families. Members of Nymphalidae are commonly called brush-footed butterflies because their front legs are covered with long hairs that appear similar to brush bristles. Butterfly species in the family use only their middle and hind legs for walking, display large knobs at the ends of their antennae, and have robust, furry projections called palpi on both sides of their faces, which protect their proboscises.

Scientifically classified as Myscelia orsis, blue wing butterflies exhibit more colors than their name implies. The adults display black markings on the upper sides of their wings and a tan, leaf-like design on the undersides. When at rest, the butterflies hold their wings in a position that exposes their cryptic wing undersides, allowing them to virtually disappear in the tropical forest. The species exhibits sexual dimorphism through over wing coloration. The males are a richer, deeper blue, while the females appear in duller shades and exhibit more strongly striped upper wing patterns. The females display signs of Batesian mimicry, closely resembling the female Catonephele nyctimus, a toxic Amazonian shoemaker butterfly.

Blue wing caterpillars are not as graceful and elegant as the adult butterflies. The caterpillars feature a head capsule topped with two large horns and bodies covered with white tubercles that look similar to warts. Numerous spines are also visible on their posterior body segments. The blue wing caterpillars favor a variety of plants, such as croton, poinsettias, noseburn, and nettleleaf. Amazonian tribes utilize extracts from many of their preferred larval food sources for various pharmacological purposes.

Contributing Authors

Cynthia D. Kelly, Shannon H. Neaves, Laurence D. Zuckerman, and Michael W. Davidson - National High Magnetic Field Laboratory, 1800 East Paul Dirac Dr., The Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida, 32310.


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