Butterflies are the most popular of all insects and loved by all. They are a common occurrence in our catchments and should be visitors in gardens too, provided their habitat and food needs are met. Adult butterflies require nectar producing flowers while their larvae depend entirely on species specific food plants. These plants are the key to the survival of butterflies. Very few exotic plant species satisfy the individual caterpillar needs. Planting for butterflies also means benefiting other small insects and with that creatures further up the food chain such as lizards, frogs, and most birds.
Special efforts are made across SE Queensland including in our catchments area to bring back the Richmond Birdwing butterfly strategically planting the locally native host plant Pararistolochia praevenosa. Only recently almost 300 plants have been established on three Land for Wildlife properties in Fig Tree Pocket. Many more plants are needed and connectivity to other such ‘stations’ be created to help establish viable communities of the butterfly. Sightings of the beautiful and large green butterfly have already been recorded from Chapel Hill, Taringa and Indooroopilly. The Richmond Birdwing butterfly is our largest butterfly and certainly one of the most attractive. Wouldn’t it be nice if we all planted the vine in our gardens and so helped the corridor creation.
Butterflies and moths are closely related and belong to the Order Lepidoptera. While most moths are active at night, some are known to fly during the day and are also rather colourful such as the Joseph’s Coat Moth. Check out the way they hold their wings when resting. If they are upright, it’s bound to be a butterfly, if they are spread out, it’s a moth.
The Butterfly Life Cycle
The female adult butterfly lays her eggs either in clusters or individually usually on or under leaves of their host plant. When the caterpillar emerges it feeds on the remainder of the egg and goes on to devour leaves of the host plant. Once the instar has outgrown its outer shell (the exoskeleton) it sheds it’s skin and repeats that until it is ready to turn into a chrysalis (pupa). While in this stage, the immature butterfly reorganises its organs and its body shape until he/she is ready to emerge as beautiful adult butterfly who will find a mate and start the whole life cycle and metamorphosis again.
Did you know that some butterfly species congregate on hill tops and ridges to find a suitable mating partner. The top of Mount Coot-tha is known to be such a spot. Did you also know that butterflies find their mating partners by smell and that they drink the nectar found through a proboscis, an elongated mouth part.
Let’s all plant for butterflies.
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