Nature: Butterflies and Moths

Morpho Rhetinor 尖翅蓝闪蝶 (Family Morphidae, Morphos

With the speed of a galloping horse, the great blue Morpho butterfly rushes through the tropical jungle. Faster, far faster, than even the giant swallowtail of North America, the Morpho flies along a dim forest trail. The collector who tries to sweep it into his net is astonished to see the huge blue creature leap up, as he strikes for it, in one great bound that flings it to the very tops of the jungle. The sunlight strikes the myriad tiny prisms of the wings and suddenly the blue is no longer just a blue, but a dazzling glory, a blazing mirror of light so bright it hurts the eyes. A large bird dives for this shining blue prize and equally suddenly the brilliant Morpho disappears, yes disappears completely into thin air.

Has the bird eaten it up? Not at all, for soon you see a large butterfly drifting down through distant shadows, quietly coming to earth like a suddenly doused meteorite. It is the Morpho, shorn of his brilliance, for he knows how to turn off the bright mirrors of his wings by closing them and diving with them so that what the bird saw as a brilliant target suddenly becomes a dull and almost invisible creature of the shadows.

Yet butterfly collectors of the tropics have figured ways to catch this butterfly or to raise the great blue butterflies to maturity by starting them as caterpillars. Literally, millions of them were shipped earrings and butterfly trays. And the wonderful thing is that not a bit of this brilliant blue color, so prized and treasured, is really a color at all. It is only made by tiny glass-like prisms, as the rainbow is made by sunlight flashing through a million water drops in the sky.

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