Peak butterfly season

Rain makes the plants grow and provides ideal conditions for caterpillars and other vegetarian insects so we’re now in peak butterfly season.

One very slow walk around my garden was enough for me to take the photos you see below. I missed the Common Crow (old pic here), which we see often, and the Orchard Swallowtail and Cairns Birdwing, which are fairly regular visitors, but otherwise it’s a good overview of the larger species we see at this time of year.

Junonia hedonia
Brown Soldier or Chocolate Argus, Junonia hedonia
Cupha prosope
Australian Rustic, Cupha prosope

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Insects in my new Townsville garden

Each garden attracts some different insects and spiders from its neighbours because of the different food plants and micro-habitats it offers. The difference between our old garden and our new one is most apparent in the butterflies, since their caterpillars often eat only one or two species of plant.

Here we haven’t (yet) got any Plumbago, so we have no Plumbago Blue butterflies; but we do have Cycads.

cycad blue butterfly
Cycad Blue on the rib of a caterpillar-chewed cycad frond

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Unlikely friends: ants and butterflies

Hypolycaena phorbas male
Black-spotted Flash (male) perched on a green-ants’ nest

Walking back down the hill for Tegoora Rock lookout (previous post) I spotted a green-ant nest with – surprisingly – a butterfly perched on it. Living dangerously, surely? Perhaps not.

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Sleepy midwinter butterflies

sleeping butterfly
Common Albatross, sleeping

The short days and cool weather of our winter don’t stop our butterflies completely but do slow them down. Numbers drop off, and their hours of activity shrink.  As I noted years ago, most of them find quiet spots by about 3.30 each afternoon where they can rest safely until the temperature climbs again on the following morning. The one in my photo is doing just that, but I only spotted it because I saw it land.

Do butterflies really sleep?

As this site says, it “depends on your definition of sleep. If you want to define sleep as an inactive, low metabolic state: yes.  This low metabolic state is often driven by the temperature in the air.” Butterflies are ectothermic (“cold-blooded”, except that they don’t really have blood) so they need external warmth for their activity.

An extension of their overnight “sleep” is the over-winter hibernation which carries adults of some species through a long period of low temperatures and limited food supplies, even here in the tropics.

Do butterflies dream?

Probably not – but how could we know?