Happy Friday, Butterfly Fans!!! We hope you’re having a great Friday. This week we thought we should feature some more Birdwing butterflies. For many years, Birdwing butterflies have been the most prized specimens in any collection. The Birdwing group includes the largest butterflies in the world, and in many respects the most beautifully colored butterflies in the world. They primarily come from one of the most inaccessible regions of the world, New Guinea and its close-by neighbors. And as if this weren’t enough of an incentive, there are numerous forms for every species!!! It seems as though every island, mountain top, and valley has its own unique variation, providing a seemingly limitless assortment of specimens to add to your collection. It’s impossible to choose your favorite Birdwing, so we’ll just say that today’s featured butterflies are two of our many favorites, Goliath and Tithonus Birdwings!
Ornithoptera goliath, or the Goliath Birdwing, is found throughout New Guinea, Irian Jaya, and several neighboring islands. Just the name Goliath suggests “super size”. As butterflies go, it’s commonly called the second largest butterfly in the world, although first and second place are practically even for some forms of Goliath. Goliath has a number of subspecies with equally monster-size names like Atlas, Supremus, Samson and Titan. Depending on the subspecies, Goliath males can easily reach a 7-inch wingspan, although the smallest male subspecies is around 4-inches. The females will often reach the 8 to 9-inch range!!! As with all Birdwings, the Goliath males are more colorful with a rich pattern of golden-yellow, light neon-green and black. The golden-yellow areas are semi translucent, and the light seems to shine right through the wings! The females of Goliath are mostly black or dark brown with a varying range of white to cream-color markings sometimes tinted yellow. The pair of Goliath butterflies we have chosen to feature today are Goliath Supremus with the female form Titan. This female form is radically different than most other Birdwing females, and even different from other Goliath females. It has virtually no cream-colored markings, and has a broad bright yellow border on the hind wings. It measures 9-inches across and is truly spectacular!!! One unique note about the Goliath females, they lay the largest eggs of any insect in the world at almost 5mm across!!!
Our second featured Birdwing today is Ornithoptera tithonus, the Tithonus Birdwing. Tithonus is found mostly in Irian Jaya and on several neighboring islands. Tithonus is not as well known as Goliath, and its distribution and habits have not been fully established. In fact, after the first specimen of Tithonus was collected and scientifically described, it took almost 50 years until a second specimen was collected!!! Tithonus has several subspecies and forms. All of them share the same colors as Goliath. The male Tithonus has a unique hind wing shape which is somewhat smaller and narrower in relation to the forewing. Tithonus is smaller than Goliath in both sexes. The females of Tithonus have the characteristic black and cream color scheme with patches of varying numbers and shapes depending on the subspecies. One thing you will notice from the pictures today is that the males have lots of long hairs on the hind wings next to the body. These hairs are actually scent-producing wing scales that emit a pheromone that is attractive to the females. You’ll also notice that the bodies of both sexes of both species are colorful, with the undersides having bright red “fur” next to the bodies. Both Goliath and Tithonus are truly exquisite butterflies.
Both Goliath and Tithonus are “protected” species which means that permits are required to import them from country to country. However, the protected status seems unnecessary because virtually all the specimens on the market have been bred in captive breeding projects. And so the only real threat to these butterflies is from local habitat destruction, not from commerce. As Birdwings go, these species are both in the medium price ranges, usually with nicely framed pairs being over $200 for the common subspecies and significantly higher for the more rare subspecies. But even with the higher prices, you won’t find a more beautiful and impressive pair of butterflies to add to your collection. Birdwings are a favorite in our Wonders Of Nature department, and we would be happy to help you choose one for your growing collection. See you on the trail!
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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.