Queen Alexandra’s Butterfly

One of the most remarkable inhabitants of the insect kingdom is Queen Alexandra’s Birdwing Butterfly

It ranks as the very largest butterfly in the world. This butterfly can have a wingspan of almost a foot wide.

It is rare to see it, as its home is in a coastal area of New Guinea, and it lives within the rainforests there.

Queen Alexandras Butterfly
Queen Alexandras Butterfly

Named after Queen Alexandra, the butterfly was discovered by Alfred Meeks, who wanted to honor the queen.

This butterfly begins its life as an egg.

The female Queen Alexandras lays the egg on a specific plant, called a pipevine, which makes a meal of the plant after it hatches, and has its food sitting beneath it.

The pipevine plant is poisonous, and offers some unique protection to the Birdwing.

The caterpillar will take the poison into its system, and this makes it rather nasty tasting for the predators, which protects the caterpillar.

The caterpillar hatches and begins to eat insatiably nearly from the moment of its birth.

It will eat constantly until it molts, which it does many times as it continues to grow.

The Alexandras Birdwing caterpillar is black, and has some very interesting red tentacles along with a creamy white colored spot on its body.

The entire body is covered with flesh type tentacles.

As the pupa or chrysalis is made, it will be about the size of a mans thumb. Sitting for about a month, it will eat and drink nothing during this aspect of its life, living in a state of suspension so to speak.

After about a month the butterfly comes out of the chrysalis.

Once it is a butterfly, it does not grow any longer.

The female Alexandras is a good bit larger than the male and is a chocolate brown with creamy colored spots, and a patch of red fur, while the male is brown with blue and gree, and has a bright gold stomach.

The protectioin taken in by the caterpillar continues in the butterfly. Queen Alexandra’s Butterfly remains poisonous and any animal that eats it will be very ill. Most do not die of the poison, but do tend to remember that this butterfly made them sick and don’t eat more of it.

Queen Alexandras Birdwing, like other butterflies, will use a long tube called a proboscis to eat with. This is really a very long tongue, which stays coiled up and uncoils to eat nectar from the depths of flowers, and then becomes a spiral again when it is not being used.

The Queen Alexandra’s Butterfly mates once, and then will end its life cycle, with the entire life span ending after just three months of being a butterfly.

Find out more about the Queen Alexandra Butterfly over at Wikipedia »


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