20 Biggest Butterfly Species in the World

Welcome. You’re about to embark on a spectacular exploration of the 20 biggest butterfly species in the world.

These insects, known for their intricate patterns and vibrant colors, can also impress with their considerable sizes.

Atlas Moth (Attacus atlas)

The Atlas Moth, scientifically known as Attacus atlas, is truly a wonder of nature.

Atlas Moth

Here are some remarkable facts about this butterfly species:

  • Habitat: This butterfly is primarily found in Southeast Asia, specifically in the rainforests of Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines.
  • Appearance: They are renowned for their vibrant colors and intricate patterns, with a dress of rusty orange and creamy white.
  • Size: The Atlas moths are one of the largest lepidopterans, with their wings spanning between 7 and 11 inches.
  • Diet: Interestingly, Atlas moths don’t eat at all once they emerge from their cocoons, living entirely off the fat stored during their caterpillar stage.
  • Reproduction: The females lay eggs on a variety of plants, and the caterpillars feed on their leaves.
  • Lifespan: The adult Atlas moths have a lifespan of only one or two weeks.
  • Host Plants: During the larva stage, the caterpillars feed on the leaves of the citrus tree, Malaysian cinnamon and Jamaican cherry tree.

Hercules Moth (Coscinocera hercules)

The Hercules Moth hails from the rainforests of New Guinea and northern Australia. This moth is notable for its incredible size and striking nature.

Hercules Moth

Let’s examine its characteristics closely:

  • Habitat: They’re found predominantly in the rainforests of northern Australia and Papua New Guinea.
  • Appearance: It’s an unbelievably beautiful insect with a pair of extremely big, semi-transparent wings, which display intricate, eye-catching patterns.
  • Size: Females can attain a wingspan of 27 cms, making them one of the world’s largest moths.
  • Diet: Interestingly, adults do not feed. Their entire adulthood is spent finding a mate and then reproducing.
  • Reproduction: Female moths lay large egg clusters on the underside of the leaves of their host plants.
  • Lifespan: Adult moths live just for a few days, enough to mate and lay eggs.
  • Host Plants: The Hercules moth larvae feed on the leaves of several species of plants in the family Myrtaceae.

Now, isn’t that fascinating? Their short yet impressive life certainly leaves a mark, doesn’t it?

White Witch (Thysania agrippina)

Ever wondered about the largest moth in terms of wingspan? Meet the White Witch or Thysania agrippina.

White Witch (Thysania agrippina)

With a wingspan that can reach up to 12 inches, it’s no wonder why it’s often mistaken for a bat when in flight.

  • Habitat: Mainly found in Mexico, Brazil, and the southern parts of the United States.
  • Appearance: Its wings, resembling autumn leaves, become a perfect camouflage. The pale brown color also contributed to its name. Other distinctive features include the black marks on the upper side of their wings.
  • Size: Their wingspan ranges between 10.6 inches to 12 inches, making them one of the largest moth species.
  • Diet: They feed on nectar, like most moth species.
  • Reproduction: Not much is known about their mating behavior or lifespan.
  • Lifespan: Moths generally live for 1 week to 9 months, depending on species and other conditions.
  • Host Plants: They mostly lay their eggs on plants in the family Salicaceae in wild.

The White Witch, with its large wingspan, is undoubtedly a spectacle to behold. Next time you see a bat-like figure, take a closer look, it might just be this moth.

Goliath Birdwing (Ornithoptera goliath)

The Goliath Birdwing is a butterfly which can truly be considered a marvel of nature.

Ornithoptera goliath samson, Goliath Birdwing (m)

Here is a breakdown of some of its characteristics:

  • Habitat: This butterfly is found primarily in the rainforests of Papua New Guinea.
  • Appearance: Sporting vibrant colourings, males have a mixture of black, green and yellow while females are browner and larger.
  • Size: It’s one of the largest in the world with a wingspan reaching up to 11 inches.
  • Diet: Interestingly, their diet consists primarily of pipevine, a plant which releases a toxin that the Goliath Birdwing is immune to.
  • Reproduction: Females can release over a dozen eggs per day, but the survival rate is low due to many predators.
  • Lifespan: On average, this species can live up to 3 months.
  • Host Plants: Their chosen host plants are Aristolochia and Pararistolochia species as the larvae feed on these upon hatching.

In the wild, these butterflies are treasured for their mesmerising beauty and size.

Alexandra’s Birdwing (Ornithoptera alexandrae)

Alexandra’s Birdwing holds the title of the largest butterfly species in the world. With unparalleled splendor and a hint of majesty, this butterfly is unlike any other.

Alexandra's Birdwing Butterfly

  • Habitat: This butterfly calls the rainforests of Papua New Guinea its home.
  • Appearance: It features a stunning mix of bright, iridescent green, gold, and blue on female wings, while males have a more subdued but equally beautiful color palette.
  • Size: Females can reach a wingspan of 12 inches, making it the world’s largest in terms of size.
  • Diet: Adults are usually seen sipping nectar from vines and flowers in their tropical habitat.
  • Reproduction: Mated females lay eggs exclusively on certain vine species that serve as food for the hatching larvae.
  • Lifespan: Their lifespan is uncertain, but most butterflies of substantial size usually live several weeks to a few months.
  • Host Plants: Alexandra’s Birdwing relies on toxic Aristolochia vines for laying eggs and providing nourishment to the hatching caterpillars.

Great Mormon (Papilio memnon)

Delve into the world of the Great Mormon, a butterfly of significant stature in the lepidopteran realm! This black beauty hails from South East Asia.

Great Mormon butterfly

  • Habitat: You’ll find them fluttering merrily in the tropical and subtropical zones, with a penchant for parks and gardens.
  • Appearance: Check out their velvety black wings graced with an array of red and blue spots. The males give off a brilliant metallic blue sheen, a sight to behold!
  • Size: This butterfly is no lightweight, reaching an impressive wingspan of up to 15 cm. That’s on the upper end for a butterfly.
  • Diet: Primarily slurping up nectar, adults also have a taste for rotten fruit.
  • Reproduction: Keep your eyes peeled in the summer, as it’s their prime breeding season.
  • Lifespan: Not the longest-lived species, they survive normally for about a month.
  • Host Plants: Citrus trees, particularly Murraya paniculata and Citrus maxima, are their plants of choice for laying eggs.

This visually striking addition to the lepidopteran world is as dramatic as it is diverse.

Giant Swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes)

The Giant Swallowtail is truly an epic sight to behold. Known for its grandeur, this creature has fascinating aspects that make it one of a kind.

giant swallowtail butterfly

  • Habitat: Typically, these butterflies are found in North and South America, thriving in environments like citrus groves.
  • Appearance: Sporting striking yellow and black stripes, they’re easily identifiable amongst butterfly enthusiasts.
  • Size: Living up to their name, Giant Swallowtails can reach a wingspan of up to 6.3 inches.
  • Diet: Nectar is the main food source for these butterflies, supplementing it with minerals from damp soil.
  • Reproduction: Females lay their spherical, yellow eggs on the leaves of host plants.
  • Lifespan: An adult Giant Swallowtail’s lifespan can span up to a month, though the entire life cycle lasts around two months.
  • Host Plants: Citrus plants are their preferred host plants, though they’ve been known to use gas plant and prickly ash.

Without a doubt, the Giant Swallowtail is a truly fascinating addition to the butterfly world.

Giant Owl Butterfly (Caligo memnon)

The Giant Owl Butterfly is a sight to behold. With its large size and intricate patterns, it’s a paradise for every butterfly lover.

Giant Owl Butterfly

  • Habitat: Found mainly in the tropical rain forests of Central and South America.
  • Appearance: Known for the owl-like eyespots on the underside of their lower wings. The upper side of their wings is bluish-black with a yellow edge.
  • Size: With a wingspan reaching up to 7.9 inches, they are truly one of the giant species of butterflies.
  • Diet: The adult butterfly feeds on fruits, particularly those of the genus Casearia.
  • Reproduction: Females lay eggs on the leaves of banana plants, the caterpillar’s food source.
  • Lifespan: Although the caterpillar stage lasts for about a month, as adults they live just for about a month.
  • Host Plants: Primarily, banana plants but can also use other plants like Heliconias for laying eggs.

In the quiet of the night, you might just be lucky enough to spot one of these magnificent creatures. You’ll be spellbound by its size and unique markings.

Pale Owl Butterfly (Thysania zenobia)

Thysania zenobia, more commonly known as the Pale Owl butterfly, is quite the specimen in the world of butterflies. This captivating creature holds its own among the biggest butterfly species.

Thysania zenobia. The Owl moth

Here are some interesting facts about it:

  • Habitat: Predominantly found in South America and Mexico, often seen at night.
  • Appearance: Characterized by their light grey color, resembling the pale shades of an owl.
  • Size: Boasting an impressive wingspan, it reaches up to 160mm, making it one of the largest butterfly species.
  • Diet: They are avid drinkers of nectar from night-blooming flowers.
  • Reproduction: Their mating cycle is nocturnal, which results in the single brooded species.
  • Lifespan: Typically, they live up to a few weeks. However, it depends largely on their environment and predators.
  • Host Plants: The larvae feed mostly on woody tree species including Cassia trees.

Next time you find yourself strolling in South America, stay vigilant for this spectacular butterfly!

Great Yellow Mormon (Papilio lowi)

The Great Yellow Mormon, scientifically known as Papilio lowi, is one of the largest butterflies and a sight to behold.

Great Yellow Mormon butterfly

  • Habitat: Found primarily in the forests of Borneo and the Philippines.
  • Appearance: Unforgettable! They have large, black wings adorned with a striking pattern of yellow and red marks.
  • Size: These bad boys can boast a wingspan of 10-13 cm.
  • Diet: As caterpillars, they munch on leaves, but nectar is their go-to as adults.
  • Reproduction: Females lay spherical eggs on the undersides of citrus plants.
  • Lifespan: Their life spans up to three weeks, most of it spent soaring the forest canopies.
  • Host Plants: Their larvae typically feast on the leaves of Rutaceae family plants.

This butterfly species is one of the most sizeable and fascinating. Proof that size does matter in the breathtaking world of butterflies!

Homerus Swallowtail (Papilio homerus)

Imagine yourself in the beautiful rainforests of Jamaica. Suddenly, you spot a glorious creature in the wild, known as the Homerus Swallowtail. It’s one of the largest butterflies in the world.

Homerus Swallowtail, Papilio homerus

  • Habitat: The rainforests of Jamaica act as home to this splendid creature. It prefers higher altitudes around 600 to 1300 meters.
  • Appearance: The butterfly is primarily black with yellow bands, geometric shapes, and striking blue patches beautifying its wings.
  • Size: With a wingspan stretching up to an impressive length of 6 inches, one can’t miss its majestic flutter.
  • Diet: Caterpillars are keen on Piper species, whilst adults feed on nectar from orchids and other rainforest plants.
  • Reproduction: These butterflies have an extraordinary life cycle, including a pupal stage that lasts almost a month.
  • Lifespan: How long do they grace the earth? Butterflies have a lifespan of around 8 to 12 weeks.
  • Host Plants: The Piper species are their preferred host plants. They provide the perfect food for caterpillar offspring. It’s a sight to behold, both stunning and worthwhile.

Comparatively rare, the Homerus Swallowtail is indeed a treasure of nature, captivating both bug enthusiasts and casual observers alike.

Blue Morpho (Morpho peleides)

Meet the ‘Blue Morpho’, easily one of the world’s largest butterflies. Famous for its vibrant iridescent blue wings, it commands attention wherever it goes.

Blue Morpho butterfly

Let’s dive into some interesting facts:

  • Habitat: Found in the tropical forests of Latin America, from Mexico to Colombia.
  • Appearance: Unique, with bright blue upper wings. Interestingly, the underparts are brown with eye-like spots.
  • Size: Among the largest butterflies, the wingspan can reach up to 20 cm.
  • Diet: Unlike many butterflies, they feed mainly on the juices of rotting fruits.
  • Reproduction: Females lay their eggs on the undersides of host plants.
  • Lifespan: Short and beautiful! They live for only about 115 days.
  • Host Plants: Primarily feed on plants of the Leguminosae family.

Their mesmerizing colors and large size make them easy encounters on nature walks. Also, they have critical roles in their ecosystems. Protecting these butterflies helps maintain biodiversity.

Richmond Birdwing (Ornithoptera richmondia)

The beauty of nature is often displayed magnificently through creatures like the Richmond Birdwing butterfly.

Richmond Birdwing butterfly

Native to Australia, this spectacular species merits your attention for its captivating presence and brilliant features.

  • Habitat: This butterfly primarily flourishes in the lowland subtropical rainforests of Australia.
  • Appearance: Characterized by its vibrant color, the male sports a green and black display while the female boasts a set of larger, brown and white wings.
  • Size: With a wingspan reaching up to 16cm in females, it’s one of the largest in its habitat.
  • Diet: Adult butterflies feed on the nectar of a variety of flowers.
  • Reproduction: These butterflies lay eggs solo or in clusters, usually in the soft parts of food plants.
  • Lifespan: Average lifespan of the Richmond Birdwing is short- around one to two months.
  • Host Plants: They depend on the Richmond Birdwing Vine for their survival, as it is their primary source of food and a site for laying eggs.

Now that’s not an everyday butterfly, is it?

Ulysses Butterfly (Papilio ulysses)

The Ulysses butterfly is one of the most arresting butterflies out there. This blue bullet of the rainforests is sure to capture your attention.

Ulysses Butterfly

Let’s delve in and unravel its unique features.

  • Habitat: This flashy butterfly is a native to Australia and Papua New Guinea’s dense rainforests. They are often found near rivers and streams.
  • Appearance: The Ulysses butterfly flaunts a striking blue upper side with a black edge, making for a spectacular view.
  • Size: This spectacular species falls amongst the largest butterflies, featuring a wingspan that measures up to 14 cm.
  • Diet: The adult butterflies are particularly fond of nectar from various flowering plants.
  • Reproduction: Female butterflies lay their eggs on the leaves of the Pink Evodia tree.
  • Lifespan: These butterflies have a rather short lifespan, living only 4-6 weeks in their butterfly phase.
  • Host Plants: The larvae feed primarily on the leaves of the Euodia tree, their preferred host plant.

Rajah Brooke’s Birdwing (Trogonoptera brookiana)

Hailing from the rainforests of the Malay Peninsula, Borneo, and Sumatra, the Rajah Brooke’s Birdwing is truly intriguing.

Rajah Brooke's Birdwing butterfly

  • Habitat: Most comfortably seen in lowland areas and mountainous regions in Southeast Asia.
  • Appearance: A beautiful, green-black color combination accentuated by a striking red head. The males showcase large green triangles on their wings too.
  • Size: A wingspan reaching up to 17 cm, makes it an entrant in the list of world’s largest butterflies.
  • Diet: As caterpillars, they can be seen chewing on the poisonous Aristolochia plant. As adults, they sip on nectar.
  • Reproduction: Females lay solitary green eggs on the host plants, where the larvae can find immediate sustenance after hatching.
  • Lifespan: Like many butterfly species, their life cycle comprises about a month.
  • Host Plants: Aristolochia acuminata serves as the main host plant for its larvae.

So, get ready to appreciate the beauty and fascinating biology of the Rajah Brooke’s Birdwing!

Pipevine Swallowtail (Battus philenor)

The Pipevine Swallowtail is a dazzling, albeit formidable butterfly. It’s hard not to be intrigued by its unique characteristics.

Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly

Here’s all you need to know about it:

  • Habitat: You’ll mostly find it in North and Central America, and in some parts of Asia.
  • Appearance: Its large wings are a deep iridescent blue or black. Each wing is adorned with a row of bright white spots.
  • Size: It has an impressive wingspan of 7 to 13 centimeters.
  • Diet: As caterpillars, they feed on the pipevine plant. Adults enjoy nectar from a variety of flowers.
  • Reproduction: Females lay clusters of eggs on the underside of pipevine leaves.
  • Lifespan: The Pipevine Swallowtail lives for around 2 weeks as an adult.
  • Host Plants: The Dutchman’s Pipe Vine is the preferred diet and habitat during the caterpillar stage.

Red Lacewing (Cethosia biblis)

The Red Lacewing (Cethosia biblis), is a stand-out among its peers indeed.

Red Lacewing butterfly

Let’s dive deeper:

  • Habitat: Native to South Asia and Australia, you will often find them in the rainforest or at the fringes.
  • Appearance: Their distinct appearance features orange-red wings with white borders and swathes of black patches.
  • Size: These butterflies have a broad wingspan that is around 8 centimeters, making heads turn.
  • Diet: From flower nectar to aphid honeydew, their diet is quite diverse.
  • Reproduction: During breeding season, females lay their eggs on the host plant leaves.
  • Lifespan: Expect them to fly around gracefully for roughly 3-4 weeks.
  • Host Plants: Red Lacewings love the Passionflower vines; in fact, it serves as both food and egg-laying hub.

Isn’t it amazing how every butterfly species moves about with such specific, yet astounding traits?

Purple Emperor (Apatura iris)

The Purple Emperor is a fascinating butterfly species.

Purple Emperor Butterfly

  • Habitat: They typically reside in deciduous woodlands, particularly oak forests.
  • Appearance: The males are notable for their stunning purple-blue iridescence, while females are dark brown.
  • Size: This species ranks as one of the largest butterflies in Europe, with a wingspan of 65 to 75 mm.
  • Diet: Uniquely, Purple Emperors primarily feed on the honeydew of aphids, rather than nectar.
  • Reproduction: After mating, females lay their eggs singly on the leaves of their host plants.
  • Lifespan: Adult Purple Emperors live for approximately a month during the summer season.
  • Host Plants: The primary host plant for the Purple Emperor is the goat willow, but they also use crack willow and grey willow.

This gorgeous butterfly is certainly a sight to behold, especially when the sunlight catches the iridescent wings of the males, casting a mesmerising purple hue.

Two-tailed Pasha (Charaxes jasius)

The Two-tailed Pasha, or Charaxes jasius, is quite a spectacle. It’s a butterfly you’d want on your list of seen species.

Two-tailed Pasha (Charaxes jasius)

Here’s a quick dive into this fascinating creature:

  • Habitat: Known to inhabit Mediterranean regions, they love Cork oak forests and hot, arid environments.
  • Appearance: Boasting a striking pattern of orange, white, and black, with two tails extending from its hind wings, it’s easy to spot this beauty.
  • Size: Their wingspan stretches out to about 3.1 to 3.5 inches, making them one of the larger butterfly species.
  • Diet: They largely feed on decaying fruit and tree sap, although they’re known to enjoy flower nectar as well.
  • Reproduction: Remarkably, the females can lay up to 300 eggs at once, dotting them around their preferred host plants.
  • Lifespan: Their adult life usually ranges about 6 to 8 weeks, a bit longer than the average butterfly.
  • Host Plants: Favoured host plants often include Strawberry Tree, Boxwood, Myrtle and other related vegetation.

Madagascan Sunset Moth (Chrysiridia rhipheus)

Here’s a lovely critter for you to learn about, the Madagascan Sunset Moth!

Madagascan Sunset Moth (Chrysiridia rhipheus)

  • Habitat: Found mainly in the rainforests of Madagascar, this spectacular creature is also occasionally seen in the Comoros islands.
  • Appearance: The moth is renowned for its iridescent wings, shimmering in a palette of orange, green, yellow and red, hence its name.
  • Size: Truly one of the larger specimens, it measures a magnificent 7–9 centimeters across the wings.
  • Diet: As caterpillars, they exclusively feed on Omphalea species. But once they transform, the adults do not eat at all.
  • Reproduction: As with many moth species, the female lays eggs on the host plants. The caterpillars then feed on these plants once they hatch.
  • Lifespan: Its adult stage lasts about 2 weeks, but it remains a caterpillar for the better part of its approximately 5 months of life.
  • Host Plants: In Madagascar, the moth relies on Omphalea species as its prime host plants.

Isn’t nature full of wonders? From appearance to lifestyle, the Madagascan Sunset Moth is truly a marvel!


So, there you have it, the 20 largest butterfly species that grace our planet. Aren’t they all spectacular in their own unique ways?

I would love to hear from you. Which one was your favorite? Leave a comment below.

Butterflies   Updated: July 3, 2023
avatar Welcome to Insectic, a blog to learn about insects and bugs. I'm Richard, and I've created this website to share my experience, knowledge, and passion with others.

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