Happy Friday, Bug Fans!!! We hope you’re having a great Friday. In this week’s edition of Friday Flyers, we’re going to introduce you to the third branch of the Birdwing family tree --- the Troides Birdwing butterflies. In “Flyers 17” we discussed the Trogonoptera Birdwings, and in “Flyers 32” we presented the Ornithoptera Birdwings. For context and comparison, you can still find these editions here on Facebook, or you can see them in the Friday Flyers archive on our website. All of the Birdwing butterflies are fantastic. They are all very large, very colorful, and among the most widely collected of all the butterfly species. It’s hard to find a butterfly fan who doesn’t list a Birdwing butterfly as a must-have favorite. As with the other two branches of the Birdwing family tree, Troides Birdwings are protected species, which means that you can’t import them into America without special permits. This adds cost to the specimens, but it doesn’t make them any less available, because most species are raised on butterfly farms in sufficient quantities to supply the market. So let’s talk about the Troides Birdwings.
The Troides fly in the same region as the other Birdwings, including Malaysia, India, New Guinea, Indonesia, and the Philippines. There are only 19 species of Troides Birdwings, but many of the species have multiple named subspecies and forms, often named after the location of discovery. Most Troides have wingspans in the 4 to 6 inch range, with the females being larger. The Troides group tends to be severely overshadowed by the Ornithoptera group, mainly because the Troides are less colorful and slightly smaller on average. The Troides have only three colors, jet black, neon yellow, and white, with the black being replaced by dark brown on some of the females. But as the Troides clearly demonstrate, you can do a lot with only three colors!!! The males of most Troides species are basically black with varying amounts of white streaks in the forewings, and varying sized yellow patches in the hind wings, sometimes covering the entire hind wing almost to the edges. Also males have a folded “pocket” on the hind wing edge next to the body. This pocket is stuffed full of white cottony hairs that emit a scented pheromone that attracts the females.
Unlike the Ornithoptera females which are much more drab than the males, the female Troides are often more beautiful than the males. The Troides females usually have much more intricate patterns on the hind wings which result in many different arrangements of yellow and black spots, and also they usually have more of the white streaking on the forewings. This coloration combined with their larger size makes them truly spectacular. We have included photos of six species today showing the males and females of each.
As much as we like all of the Troides species, it’s very easy for us to choose our favorite. For us, Troides prattorum is by far the most impressive. Troides prattorum has a unique reflective capability that the other Troides do not have. When you view prattorum from a severe angle, the yellow patch on the hind wing disappears and is replaced by an opalescent blue sheen. We included a photograph of this effect, but until you see it with your own eyes you can’t believe how truly amazing it is!!! This sheen is caused by microscopic grooves on the individual wing scales that scatter the light and cause it to look as if it is floating above the wing surface.
Like all Birdwings, the Troides have large bodies and strong wings. They typically fly high in the rainforest canopy, but will readily visit ground-level flowers. Their caterpillars feed on the same types of Aristolochia vines as do other Birdwings, and grow to lengths of 3 to 4 inches. The caterpillars are able to digest the toxins found in the Aristolochia leaves and thereby gain protection from various predators. When collecting Troides in the wild, very long nets are needed, along with a lot of patience and a lot of unsuccessful swings! Some of the nets have 25-foot poles!!! And in some villages treetop platforms are built so that the local collectors can collect “at canopy level”. Even so, very few wild collected specimens are sold in the insect market. Most of this collecting is done to supply breeding stock to the butterfly farms. Luckily for collectors, most of the specimens available on the market are raised on butterfly farms. This farming not only yields pristine specimens for collectors and live butterfly houses, but it provides a sustainable and valuable livelihood for local residents.
So now we’ve introduced you to all three branches of the Birdwing family tree. In future Friday Flyers we’re looking forward to featuring some of the individual species in more detail. There’s a lot more we’d like to show you!!! And if you’re thinking about adding some Troides to your collection, we have some beautiful new framed specimens to show you in our Wonders Of Nature Department. With spring almost here, it’s a great time to see what’s new at D&M Perlman.
And don’t forget, we have now completed the archiving of all of our previous Friday Flyers editions on our website. You can now refer to all of the past editions complete with all the photos, in a stable, permanent, non-shifting, non-facebook format. We hope you’ll visit our website and check it out at:
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.