Environment

The World's Largest Butterflies

These massive butterflies are found predominately in the exotic rainforests of Papua New Guinea.

Butterflies are insects who experience wide distribution all over the world (except for Antarctica). There are 150,000 species of butterflies, moths, and skippers, which all belong to the order of Lepidoptera. However, there are also 18,500 species who belong to the family of Papilionoidea, out of which 775 are nearctic (North America north of tropical Mexico), 7,700 are palearctic (Eurasia north of the Himalayas and North Africa), 3,650 are afrotropical (Africa south of the Saharan desert), and 4,800 are distributed in the regions of Australian, Oceania, and southeast Asia.

3. Homerus Swallowtail - Papilio homerus

#3 Homerus Swallowtail - Papilio homerus

The papilo homerus butterfly is the largest in the genus papilio and is only found in two areas in Jamaica: the Blue and the John Crow Mountains and the cockpit country region. This breathtaking butterfly has a wingspan of 6 inches which is majorly due to its elongated forewings. The insect was first discovered by Fabricius in 1793 and was widely distributed until the 1930s.The papilio homerus only feeds on plants and is patterned in black and yellowish white. The insect’s name homerus came from the famous Greek author of the odyssey, Homer. Jamaica has recognized this butterfly by adopting it as a symbol of its only national park. Presently, the butterfly is facing extinction due to the increased destruction of its habitat. Currently 22% of Jamaican forests have been lost in the last 14 years. However, measures are in place to save the species from extinction.

2. Goliath Birdwing - Ornithoptera goliath

#2 Goliath Birdwing - Ornithoptera goliath

The Goliath birdwing is commonly found in New Guinea and contiguous smaller islands. It is the second largest butterfly in the world. The name goliath was given to it because of its size. The butterfly has a wingspan of 11 inches which is huge compared to the average butterfly’s wingspan which is 1-1.18 inches. The female lays up to 20 eggs on small plants and the young larvae feed on new leaves. The male Goliath birdwing uses its underside color to camouflage while it rests. Villagers of New Guinea farm use them as a way to earn income by selling them to foreign butterfly collectors.

1. Alexandra's Birdwing - Ornithoptera alexandrae

#1 Alexandra's Birdwing  - Ornithoptera alexandrae

Alexandra’s Birdwing is found in the Oro province of Papua New Guinea and it is one of the largest butterflies in the world. The Alexandra’s birdwing is found only within a small area and has been placed under the genus ornithoptera but had earlier been placed in the genus triodes. The butterfly is named in honor of Alexandra of Denmark by Walter Rothschild in 1907. The female butterfly is larger than the male with rounder broader wings and has brown wings with white markings while the male wings are long with angular apices and are bluish green with a black central band.The female Alexandra’s birdwing has a wingspan of 9.8 inches, a length of 3.2 inches and a body mass of 12gms. This butterfly is said to have a very selective food taste that is mainly tough leaves and woody vines.

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