Ornithoptera Series
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.
These butterflies are among the largest in the world, the female O. Alexandra having a wingspan of 11 inches.

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.

Ornithoptera Alloti

Allotti Birdwing

For nearly a hundred years this was a controversial and enigmatic butterfly. Was it a distinct but very rare species or was it an accidental hybrid? Opinion was divided until 1986 when Ray Strattman put Victorae females with Priamus euptora males. They mated and produced perfect Allotti hybrids.

O. allotti Male & Female
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2003

Acrylic on birch ply & cherry

h 24” w 25.5”
61cm x 65cm