A peek into our collections, one object at a time

Beautiful Blue Morpho

June 24, 2022

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Blue Morpho
Blue morpho butterfly, Insect Zoo, Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History

The color blue is all around us, but not all blues are made the same. Atomic elements (including those in pigments) and structural colors give plants, animals and minerals their intense shades of blue.

Morpho butterflies such as the one pictured above owe their brilliance to the structure of their wing scales. Morpho wings are pigmented brown, but they are covered in microscopic scales that have many tiny grooves that scatter light, reflecting only blue hues. These butterflies can be found in the mid-Atlantic region of the U.S. (Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Washington, D.C., and West Virginia).

What Makes Things Blue?” from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History discusses several objects and why they are blue.

Learn more about butterflies (and beyond) and view more of them in the National Museum of Natural History’s collection in this Smithsonian Spotlight.