The invasion of the butterflies

Tawny Coster, Acraea terpsicore,
Tawny Coster (female) on Cape Pallarenda

The Tawny Coster, an Asian species, was first noticed in northern Australia five years ago and has been spreading southwards ever since. It has reached Townsville in the last few weeks.

I was alerted to the alien invasion by a friend in Bushland Beach who saw them a fortnight ago and asked me if I had seen any  Continue reading “The invasion of the butterflies”

Balinese butterflies

paddies
Rice paddies near Ubud

We were based in a guesthouse just north of Ubud for the whole of our two weeks in Bali. It was five minutes’ walk from the nearest road, along a narrow footpath (and scooterpath) through the rice paddies. We could, and often did, walk all the the way into the city on the same track. The forty-minute stroll ran beside the edge of a steep narrow valley much of the way, passing occasional houses, craft stalls, shops and ‘warungs’ – local eating places ranging from very basic food stalls to simple but delightful restaurants.

These walks gave me ample opportunities to indulge in nature photography Continue reading “Balinese butterflies”

Of Butterflies and Hilltops

Swallowtails and other families

Most of our largest butterflies are Swallowtails (Papilionidae), with the Cairns Birdwing (female wingspan to 150mm) and Ulysses (108mm) notable amongst them, but we also have smaller Swallowtails such as the Blue, Pale and Green-spotted Triangles (Graphium spp.) between 57 and 65mm. Most of the Nymphs (Nymphalidae) – Crows, Soldiers, Tigers, etc – are about this size, with wingspans between 50 and 65mm. Many of the Whites and Yellows (Pieridae) – Migrants, Jezebels and Albatrosses, for instance – are in the same range, too, while the others are all smaller and Skippers (Hesperiidae) and Blues (Lycaenidae) are smaller still. (Links on Latin names take you to collections of my photos on flickr.)

Swallowtails are named for the ‘tails’ which extend from their hind wings but not all Swallowtails have tails: Ulysses and Fuscous do, while others have mere tokenistic points instead of proper tails and the Chequered, Clearwing, Dainty and the Cairns Birdwing manage without any at all. On the other hand, many non-Swallowtails, especially Blues, do have tails.

What, then, are we to make of this handsome butterfly, with its 85mm wingspan and not one but two tails on each hind wing?

Tailed Emperor
Swallowtail or Nymph?

It is the Tailed Emperor, Polyura sempronius, one of the largest Nymphs Continue reading “Of Butterflies and Hilltops”

Lurchers, naturalised

Lurcher
Lurcher feeding on hybrid bottlebrush

The historical range of the Lurcher (Yoma sabina, Nymphalidae) was always to the North of Townsville but, as I said last year, has recently extended to the city. At that time I had only seen a couple of blow-ins, but I’ve seen more since then and last week we had a group of four or five feeding on our bottlebrush Continue reading “Lurchers, naturalised”

An unexpected visitor

Meadow Argus, Junonia villida
Meadow Argus

Even after some eight years of regularly photographing insects in my suburban quarter-acre, I see “new” species – not necessarily new to me, far less new to science, but new (to my knowledge) to the garden.

It happened again this morning, with this Meadow Argus, Junonia villida, spotted on the back steps and photographed in the edge of the pool nearby. I don’t recall having seen one here before, although I know them from the Town Common (photo on flickr) and from Hervey’s Range.

Caper White butterfly and other seasonal wildlife

Caper White, Belenois java
Caper White feeding on coral vine

We still haven’t had any rain to speak of (the Dove Orchids flowering three weeks ago were wrong!) but humidity and temperatures are creeping up and there are showers around, so most living things are beginning to think about hatching, breeding, growing or nesting, according to their natures. We’ve been seeing baby geckos in the house (and one on the poplar gum), the Cape York Lilies have begun to emerge, frangipanis are flowering well, the first gorgeous green Christmas beetles have been seen, and so on – all much as I described the season in 2014.

Caper White, Belenois java
Caper White on coral vine

This year I have seen more Caper White butterflies, Belenois java, than usual – not just along Ross Creek but here in my suburban garden. This one was feeding on our abundantly flowering Coral Vine, Antigonon leptopus. (My extended family, but no-one else, has always called it ‘Maiden’s Blush’). It’s a beautiful creeper and, belying its delicate-looking prettiness, tough as old boots. It grows happily in full NQ sun and survives long periods without water, so it can be a pest.

As I said when talking about the Monarch recently, adult butterflies are not fussy about their food plants but caterpillars often are, so the abundance of Caper Whites this year is probably due to their food plants, the Caper family, having a good season.