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The Queen Alexandria's Birdwing (Ornithoptera alexandrae)

They are known as the largest butterflies alive today. This butterfly also has a lot of oddities. Let's see what we can learn about this wondrous creature.

Physical Description and Behavior

There is a fair amount of sexual dimorphism in this species, with the female butterflies being significantly larger than the males. The female's wingspan is almost 10 inches, while the males are about 2 inches shorter. The coloring is also different between them, with the females being brown while the males are bluer in color.

This butterfly goes through various stages in its lifecycle. Like most insects, first, there is the egg. Females can lay up to 240 eggs in their lifetime. The eggs then hatch into larvae which then eat the remaining shell before feeding on foliage. After feeding, they eventually go into the pupa phase.

It takes 6 weeks in total to go from the egg to the adult phase. Adults can live for over 3 months, mainly due to their lack of predators. The reason for this is due to the butterflies being poisonous to consume.

When it comes time for them to mate, a male will find a potential sex partner and douse her in a pheromone with their androconia, or scenet glands under their wings. Females that are drawn to the pheromone will allow the male to land on her and mate but will simply fly off if they don't.

Habitat and Location

Queen Alexandra's birdwing is considered to be an endangered species by the IUCN Red List. In fact, it can only be found in a 40 square mile area of forest in Popondetta, Papa New Guinea.

One of the biggest threats is deforestation leading to a loss of habitat as well as collectors. These butterflies sell for a large profit to collectors, which makes them a prime target. It will be important to keep an eye on their population with the growing threat of cliamte change.

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