April

Ornithoptera allottei (Rothschild)

Object: Ornithoptera allottei (Rothschild)

Common name: Abbé Allotte’s Birdwing

Collected at Buin, Bougainville, Solomon Islands in 1937

Milwaukee Public Museum, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USAEMu user since 2003

Ornithoptera allottei (Rothschild)Birdwing butterflies, genus Ornithoptera, are named for their tremendous wingspan and body size. Native to the various islands of the Indo-Australian tropical region, there are about a dozen currently recognized Birdwing species plus many subspecies and forms. In the late 1970s the Milwaukee Public Museum acquired a number of representative specimens through a generous donation by James R. Neidhoefer and his wife, Elaine, who amassed a large collection of worldwide Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths) mostly through purchases and exchanges.

The very rare Birdwing specimen shown here, Ornithoptera allottei (Rothschild), was purchased by the Neidhoefers at the auction of the G. Rousseau-Decelle collection in Paris, France on October 24, 1966. It was one of only three specimens known in the world at that time. Ornithoptera allottei was first described by Walter Rothschild in the July 1914 issue of the journal Novitates Zoologicae based upon a single specimen collected on the island of Bougainville. A second specimen collected by Paul Kibler was reported from the same locality in the December 1916 issue of Lepidoptera Niepeltiana.

This specimen was collected along with its chrysalis case at Buin, Bougainville, Solomon Islands on December 30, 1937, by George Rousseau-Decelle and first reported in a 1939 article in the journal Bulletin de la Société Entomologique de France. This butterfly is now recognized to be a hybrid of O. urvillianna x victoriae rather than a separate species. In recent times steepdeclines in Birdwing populations have occurred due to loss of habitats and over-collecting. These butterflies are now under legal protection (CITES), and some efforts are being made to increase their numbers through government controlled local butterfly farming projects.

Acknowledgements: Milwaukee Public Museum