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.

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