Happy Friday, “Flyer” fans!!! We hope you’re having a great Friday so far. This week we’ve been using our time to rearrange the shelves in our Wonders Of Nature department to make room for lots of new framed insects and mineral specimens which we have just added. We’ll be posting some new pictures probably next week. Today though, we would like to introduce you to some more “Birdwing” butterflies. In week 17 of Friday Flyers we brought you our first discussion of Birdwing butterflies from the Trogonoptera group. This week we are featuring the truly beautiful species, Priamus, from the Ornithoptera group. (In Latin, Ornis means bird and Pteron means wing. So, Ornithoptera translates as Birdwing). Birdwing butterflies are sort of the “Holy Grail” of butterfly groups, and sooner or later every collector wants them. The only question is, how serious do you want to get?
The first consideration is, Birdwing butterflies are large, with the biggest of them being the largest butterflies in the world. So whether you collect them in frames or pin them in museum drawers, you’ll need some space. Second, there are lots of “forms” for most of the species. So, if you want to be comprehensive, you’ll want specimens from all of the mainland localities and islands. This takes time, effort, and patience. Third, all Birdwing butterflies are classified as protected species. So you need to obtain special permits and pay extra fees to obtain them. Fortunately for all of us, Birdwings are so much in demand that almost all of the specimens on the market are bred on butterfly farms. This means that we can get perfect specimens and obtain them directly from officially sanctioned dealers. This week’s featured species, Ornithoptera priamus, is the most popular, and is typically the least expensive of all of the Birdwings. So it’s a great choice to start your Birdwing collection.
Birdwing butterflies are found in the South Pacific countries and islands, and in northern Australia. Of all the Birdwings, priamus has the widest distribution. It was also the first Birdwing known to European explorers. Like many of the South Pacific butterfly species, priamus varies from location to location. One popular reference website lists 24 recognized subspecies of priamus, and a very large number of individual forms!!! Generally, the males of priamus are iridescent green in various shades, with bold black markings. There are also some forms of priamus that are blue. Unlike many other butterflies, the ventral (underside) of priamus is as beautiful as the top side, with various shades of yellow-green and black. And to add interest, many forms have varying numbers of black or gold spots on the hind wing margins. In sharp contrast, the females of priamus are larger, totally different in pattern, and are various shades of cream to off-white with black markings. The priamus females do not resemble the males in any way, but they do resemble the females of most other Birdwing species! Most priamus males have wingspans in the 5 to 6-inch range, with some females reaching 6 to 7-inches.
The caterpillars of priamus are dark, large and accordion shaped, with numerous pointy spikes that have bright yellow accents. They eat various species of aristolochia vines whose leaves are toxic. Like many butterflies that eat toxic plants, the caterpillars and adults retain the toxicity, and display this fact with gaudy warning colors. The adult butterflies like to feed on various flowers including hibiscus, which makes for spectacular photographs. When European explorers first visited the remote South Pacific islands, they found that the native girls often tied live Birdwing butterflies in their hair as adornments!!! Included with today’s Friday Flyers are some beautiful photos of several priamus specimens. We’ll be showing you some other Birdwing species in the coming weeks, so we won’t overload you with too many details now. We currently have several species of Birdwing butterflies in our Wonders Of Nature department, including two subspecies of priamus. If you don’t have any in your collection now, you should consider one for the next addition to your collection. You’ll never grow tired of looking at it, and your friends are sure to be fascinated by it too!!!
We hope you enjoyed this week’s edition of Friday Flyers. We love sharing our interest in butterflies and insects with you. Please enjoy the photos we have posted with this week’s edition, and be sure to see all the previous pictures in our Friday Flyers album. Remember to “like” our Wonders Of Nature page, and be sure to pass it along to all your Facebook Friends. We hope you’ll visit our Wonders Of Nature department soon, and we look forward to seeing you.
These are the colorful males of the species, and various forms can be found in Australia, New Guinea, Indonesia, and all surrounding islands. They can also be seen in West Dundee, IL, USA - in our Wonders of Nature room!!
These are the giant 7" females of the species!
An exceptional rarity!!! This is an aberrant form of the Green Birdwing butterfly, Ornithoptera priamus.