About the Butterflies
In my paintings, I use the Birdwing butterflies as a symbol of the many animal and plant species that are disappearing as a result of habitat destruction and other human interventions.
There are 11 species of Birdwing butterflies of the genera Ornithoptera
and they are restricted to the New Guinea area. All are rare and some
of the subspecies with very restricted distribution, on small islands
for example, are extremely vulnerable.
The birdwings are all believed to breed on the Aristolochia vines on which they are dependant for their survival.
Some of the most rare genera of birdwings sell for over $ 1000 a pair. Some Island colonies have been completely extirpated by unscrupulous collectors paying the islanders a few cents to gather the butterflies. These are then sold for high prices to other collectors. The main threat to these insects, though, is habitat destruction through logging by governments, companies and local people. Of course, Birdwing butterflies are just a few of the thousands of animal and plant species that are threatened with extinction as a result of the felling of the forests.
I try to render the butterflies in full scale and as accurately as possible.
The male of this butterfly is unique of the ornithoptera butterflies being mostly brown and a burnt orange, which appears iridescent green from certain views.
Alfred Russell Wallace first observed it in 1859 and it took him three months before he finally collected a specimen. He discovered that they are attracted to the yellow flowering shrub ‘Mussaenda’, so stood guard with his net till a male came along. He named it after the fabulously rich Lydian King Croesus, of the sixth century B.C.
These butterflies frequent lowland swamps on various islands in the Moluccas. It is classified as Vulnerable in the ‘Red Data Book of Threatened Swallowtail Butterflies of the World’
|O. croesus Male & Female|
Acrylic on birch ply & fir
24” w 25.5”