Butterflies are flying insects best known for their, usually, bright coloured wings and fluttering flight technique. Butterflies share many similar characteristics as moths and there is very little difference between these two insects. Butterflies start out life as an egg, which hatch after about two weeks into caterpillars. After this stage a caterpillar sheds their skin and finds and anchor point where it turns into a chrysalis. This is where the insect develops the characteristics of an adult butterfly and after this stage the butterfly emerges fully capable of flight. There is thought to be about 18,000 to 20,000 different species of butterflies in the world, but most of them are quite small. Let’s find out which species of butterfly is the largest.
What is the largest species of butterfly?
The largest species of butterfly is the Queen Alexandra’s Birdwing, which is only found in the forests of Oro Province in Papua New Guinea. The female of this species (pictured above) is the largest and can reach an impressive wingspan of 31 cm (12.2 in). The body can reach lengths of 8 cm (2.3 in) and it can weigh as much as 12 grams (0.42 oz). These measurements might not sound overly large, but they are very impressive for a butterfly! The male members are much smaller with a wingspan reaching a maximum size of 20 cm (7.9 in).
Did you know?
The Queen Alexandra’s Birdwing was named after Alexandra of Denmark by Walter Rothschild in 1907. The first European to discover this butterfly species was Albert Stewart Meek, an employee of Walter Rothschild, in 1906.
The Queen Alexandra’s Birdwing is considered to be an endangered species. This is partly because it is restricted to such a small area, but also because it requires the forest to survive. Habitat destruction and the threat of human collectors are the main risks to this species. It is illegal to trade in this species!