Butterflies beside Ross Creek

chequered butterfly
Dainty Swallowtail

The Dainty Swallowtail, Papilio anactus, is one of the smallest members of the swallowtail family but still a large and attractive butterfly.

This overview page shows the other members of the family but not all to the same scale. In reality, the birdwings are clearly the largest species at about 110 mm wingspan, followed by the Ulysses and the Orchard Swallowtail, and so on down to the Graphium species, the Clearwing and the Dainty at about 70 mm. Most of Australia’s 17 species of swallowtail live in North-east Queensland and many of them are common (but still special) in our gardens.

I photographed this particular Dainty Swallowtail beside Ross Creek a couple of weeks ago. There weren’t many other butterflies around at the time and most of them were Migrants:

yellow butterfly on small white flowers
Migrant feeding on mangrove flowers

I posted this photo of it because it’s such a good demonstration of the way these light yellow butterflies vanish amongst bright green leaves; even knowing it was right in the middle of my photo, I have looked straight past it several times. What happens, I think, is that the pale yellow reflects the green of the leaves around it, helping it to blend invisibly into the foliage and offering it some protection from hungry birds.

We have four species of Migrant here (Catopsilia spp.). They are all very similar – pale yellowish with some darker markings and a wingspan around 60 mm – and they show seasonal variation and gender differences which complicate identification, but I am fairly sure this one is a Lemon Migrant, Catopsilia pomona.

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