Albert Stewart Meek - The Man Who Hunted Butterflies With a Shotgun

New Zealanders who bought their newspapers on 11 of July 1914 had quite the read.
There was an article about record high flight that happened in Berlin, piece on „Votes for women“, article titled „Submarines vs. Battle ships“, even the article about invisible uniforms, but this one is just one more proof that newspapers had a sense for clickbait even 100 years ago.
Army didn’t invented invisible uniforms back in 1914. The article was about camouflage uniforms.   
The article that caught my attention is the one titled “A monster butterfly”. 
It goes like this; 
“Mr Meek, a collector in Papua for Mr Walter Rothschild’s museum, is visiting Sydney.  Amongst the prizes he captured was the largest butterfly in the world being 11 inches across the wings. It is such a high flier that it has to be shot with a gun”. 
Mr. Meek from the article is English explorer and naturalist Albert Stewart Meek. 
The butterfly in question was captured much earlier. In 1906. 
While roaming the jungle, on a collecting trip for Walter Rothschild, Meek spotted this giant butterfly, pulled his gun and shot it right out of the sky. 
His prey was the worlds greatest butterfly, and its now called the Queen Alexandra’s birdwing. 
As a consequence of Meek”s endevour, the Museum’s type specimen of the Queen Alexandra’s birdwing (Ornithoptera alexandrae), has bullet holes in its wings.
In the video below you can see a replica of the butterfly, and a footage of the birdwing in its natural habitat.

Back in History: Capture of the Largest Butterfly in the World

The Queen Alexandra’s birdwing is restricted to the forests of the Oro Province in eastern Papua New Guinea.

As one of the world’s most beautiful butterflies, Queen Alexandra’s birdwing  is extremely attractive to collectors.  

Fetching thousands of dollars per butterfly, this rare species has suffered severely from over harvesting. It is classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List (1) and listed on Appendix I of CITES. 



As a consequence of Meek”s endevour, the Museum’s type specimen of the Queen Alexandra’s birdwing (Ornithoptera alexandrae), has bullet holes in its wings. 

Meek is also responsible for capturing one of the earliest known specimens of another giant butterfly known as the Goliath Birdwing, which he also killed with a shotgun.

Amazingly, this specimen is still housed in museum today and yes, you can totally see that the bullet holes.


During this expedition Meek was astounded when he happened across what we know call the Queen Alexandra’s birdwing.

Meeks wasn’t a monster so he didn’t shoot the butterflies with a proper shotgun, that would be barbaric and probably result in the butterfly being blasted into a cloud of confetti and and butterfly testicles. 

He instead used custom-made one that fired ultra-fine buckshot specially made for killing the smallest and most adorable birds. 

Leave a Comment