What Is the Largest Butterfly?
The largest butterfly is the Queen Alexandra’s birdwing. This super-sized insect has a wing span of over nine and a half inches (25 cm.)! If one of the biggest birdwings landed on your arm, its wings would stretch from your elbow to your wrist. Birdwings live in the forests of the Oro Province in eastern Papua New Guinea.
This slow-flying butterfly glides through the tree tops and sucks the sweet nectar of flowering vines that wind themselves around tree branches. Birdwings are related to the giant swallowtails of North America. But most birdwings don’t have a “tail” on their hind wings.
Female Queen Alexandra’s Birdwings are larger than males with markedly rounder, broader wings with white markings arranged as two rows of chevrons. The hindwings are brown with a submarginal line of centered yellow triangles. The body is cream-coloured and there is a small section of red fur on the brown thorax.
Males are smaller than females. The abdomen is bright yellow. The wingspan of the males is approximately 20 cm, but more usually about 16 cm. A spectacular form of the male is form atavus, which has gold spots on the hind wings.
The species is endangered, and is one of only three insects (the other two being butterflies as well) to be listed on Appendix I of CITES, making international trade illegal.