The Morpho butterflies are among the largest in the world, with a wingspan of 7.5 to 20 cm. The wings of butterflies and moths consist of a colorless translucent membrane covered by a layer of scales (the name of the order is Lepidoptera, meaning "scaly wings"). If the crest of one wave meets the trough of another wave (out of phase), they will cancel each other out, as destructive interference occurs. The iridescence is more useful on the topside of the butterfly wing, where it can be used to elude their main predators: birds. Another interesting group of insects, the day-flying swallowtail moths from the uraniidae family, get their iridescent colors from their unusual scale design. The special event is dedicated to increasing the numbers and species of butterflies and birds in Bay Area landscapes.
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This brilliant blue butterfly can be found in the rain forests of South America (Brazil & Guyana). Yet, the delicate beauty of iridescent butterfly wings belies their intricate structure and functionality as the perfect foil for predators. They arise from the arrangement of physical structures interacting with light to produce a particular color. Variations in the spacing of the pattern often gives rise to an iridescent effect, as seen in peacock feathers, soap bubbles, films of oil, and mother-of-pearl, because the reflected color depends upon the angle of view. This brilliant blue butterfly can be found in the rain forests of South America (Brazil & Guyana). When the Morpho lands, it closes its wings tightly, showing only the brown, camouflaged undersides, so a bird that is looking for a blue butterfly can’t see it. When these insects fly, the upper surface of their wings continually changes from bright blue to dull brown because the angle of the light striking the wing changes. If the crests and the troughs of the waves are aligned, or in phase, they will cause constructive interference, and iridescence is the result. This stems from normal organic pigments, rather than physical structure, and does not change with viewing angle. Enjoy garden tours, family hands-on activities, educational speakers, photo presentations and music.
As the butterflies move their wings up and down during flight, they seem to disappear, and then reappear a short distance away, looking like ethereal flashes of bright blue light.
The scales overlap like roof tiles and completely cover the membrane, appearing as dust to the naked eye. One light wave hits the first groove, and a second light wave travels half of a wavelength to another groove, and is then reflected back in phase with the first. Because the distance between slits corresponds to half of the wavelength of blue light, this is the wavelength that undergoes constructive interference. Pilots flying over the rain forest can occasionally see brief flashes of blue as these butterflies travel above the forest canopy.
The slits are attached to a base of melanin, a material that absorbs light, further strengthening the blue image. Combined with an undulating pattern of flight, this ability to change color quickly makes them difficult for predators to pursue. On the underside, the slits on the scales are 160 nm apart, less than half of any visible light wavelength, and thus do not cause visible interference.
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