Butterfly season

This time of year, just after the end of the Wet season, is a good one for butterflies. Our suburban garden is full of them and I took advantage of the abundance by wandering around with my camera a few days ago.

The selection of shots I’m posting here leaves out several species which we often see but didn’t pose for me on the day. The Cairns Birdwing is most spectacular of them but has been featured here so often that I wasn’t  concerned about missing it this time.

Orchard Swallowtail
Female Orchard Swallowtail on bougainvillea

The Orchard and Fuscous Swallowtails are nearly as big as the Cairns Birdwing but not so common here. The Chocolate Soldier, Junonia hedonia; the Lemon Migrant, Catopsilia pomona; and the Pale Triangle, Graphium eurypylus are all smaller but much more frequent visitors. They are all about the same size as each other, and the same size as the four pictured below. (Links take you to my older photos, here or on flickr.)

blue tiger butterfly
Blue Tiger on hibiscus

The Blue Tiger is the most distinctive of the four. It is closely related to the Plain Tiger and Marsh Tiger, which have similar patterns in orange and black (but don’t visit us). They are all members of the subfamily Danainae within the family Nymphalidae. The Common Crow is also a Danaid. All of them lay eggs on poisonous plants so that their caterpillars absorb poisons which protect them from predators; the Crow seems to like our Desert Rose as a host plant.

crow butterfly
Common Crow on hibiscus
eggfly butterfly
Common Eggfly aka Blue Moon on dianella
brown butterfly
Blue-banded Eggfly on ixora

I have chosen photos of the undersides of these three – the Crow and two Eggfly species – to show how similar they are. All three are black or dark brown, depending on the light, with bands of white spots. The banding is strongest on the Common Eggfly and weakest on its Blue-banded cousin. I have photos of their upper sides here.

Those with an eye for detail may have noticed that the first three images show rather dilapidated individuals. This is, I think, not entirely random but a seasonal effect. If butterflies start emerging early in the Wet, many of them will be quite elderly by this time of year.

Those with an exceptional eye for detail may have spotted a small yellow-green spider in my first photo, just below the gap between the butterfly’s wings. I think it’s a jumping spider, Mopsus mormon. I don’t know whether it would be game to tackle the swallowtail but, in spite of the size difference, it is possible.

Manne on climate change

What follows is a severely condensed version of an essay, Diabolical, by Robert Manne in The Monthly for December 2015. It makes so many important points that I have overcome my reluctance to recycle others’ work here, but I do apologise to Manne and The Monthly for doing so and encourage my readers to read the original here. I have added the links and a few [words] of explanation but that’s all. Now, over to Manne:

Unless by some miracle almost every climate scientist is wrong, future generations will look upon ours with puzzlement and anger – as the people who might have prevented the Earth from becoming a habitat unfriendly to humans and other species but nonetheless failed to act. … Our conscious destruction of a planet friendly to humans and other species is the most significant development in history. … 

[Tactics for change agents]

Several studies reveal that the choice of language helps determine the level of concern. Conservatives are significantly less resistant to acknowledging there is a problem when the talk is of “climate change” rather than “global warming”. Because many studies have found the level of “visceral” response to the problem to be low, communicative calmness is implicitly or explicitly recommended. One concluded that people are repelled by climate-change messages that seem to them “apocalyptic”. Presenting the issue in this way interfered with their desire to live in “a world that is just, orderly and stable”. Another discovered that people were increasingly irritated by claims they regarded as “alarmist”. … 

Many studies also emphasise the importance of framing. One suggested a problem with using the frame of “care”, as this was the kind of narrative conservatives rejected. Another found that climate-change warnings were more effective if framed as public health concerns rather than as national security ones.

… Norgaard’s [Norwegian] study is interesting in part because it suggests that psychological denial offers a more general clue to the puzzle of humankind’s incapacity to rise to the challenge of climate change than the kind of political denialism found more or less exclusively in the US, the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia. 

[The way forward]

… In recent months Lord Nicholas Stern has published a new analysis of the climate-change crisis, Why Are We Waiting? The tone is now much more urgent [than in his 2006 review, summarised here]. …Stern accepts that the world must aim for the now internationally agreed limit of no more than a 2ºC temperature increase on pre-industrial temperature. According to his calculations, for there to be any hope of only a 2ºC increase in the next 15 years, in the developing world – where both greenhouse-gas emissions and population levels are currently accelerating very rapidly – emissions will have to be reduced. In the developed world – where emissions have become more or less stable – they will have to be cut in half. … What Nicholas Stern now calls for is nothing less than an immediate, global-wide “energy revolution”.  

Yet, as many people now realise, something much more profound than all this is required: a re-imagining of the relations between humans and the Earth, a re-imagining that will be centred on a recognition of the dreadful and perhaps now irreversible damage that has been wrought to our common home by the hubristic idea at the very centre of the modern world – man’s assertion of his mastery over nature.

Such a recognition signals a coming moral shift no less deep than those that have already transformed humankind with regard to the ancient inequalities of race and gender. … It is this recognition  …  that is already making Bill McKibben’s international movement for divestment from fossil fuels one of the fastest growing, most effective and most morally charged international protest movements since the anti-apartheid struggles. And it is this recognition that forms the core of Pope Francis’s recent summons for a worldwide cultural revolution. “No system,” he writes, “can completely suppress our openness to what is good, true and beautiful … An authentic humanity … seems to dwell in the midst of our technological culture, almost unnoticed, like a mist seeping gently beneath a closed door.”

It is on our instinct for what is good, true and beautiful, and on the arousal of that authentic humanity from its present slumber, that hopes for the human future and the future of the species with whom we share the Earth now rest.

Blue Java bananas

The Ducasse (aka ‘sugar banana’) patch we acquired with this house has been so productive that over the last few years I have been trying to grow other varieties, although with very limited success. The Blue Java sucker mentioned in this post two and a half years ago failed to thrive – mostly, I think, because it didn’t have enough roots to support the foliage. It lived, however, and eventually pushed up a sucker of its own.

A few weeks ago it looked as though the original plant was dying without having produced a bunch but I propped it up to give it the best possible chance and a few days ago I saw that it had, after all, flowered. The flower wasn’t very big and nor were the immature bananas of its first hand but I was pleased with even that degree of success. The flower bell is much slimmer than a similarly-developed flower of Ducasse or Lady Finger, and smokier in colour.

banana flower
Blue Java flower with (mostly obscured) new fruit

Sadly, a possum noticed the flower, too, and ate both fruit and bell some time in the last couple of nights. It’s very disappointing. Somewhat surprising, too, since I don’t recall that happening – ever – to a Ducasse: the possums are always around but they leave our bananas alone until the fruit are fully formed and getting close to full size.

I still look forward to some Blue Java fruit in the coming year as a reward for my patience but now I have to put all my faith in the sucker. It’s strong, healthy and taller than I am, which is a good start. With a bit of luck – and not too many scrub turkeys, possums or cyclones – I might have them before Christmas.