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.
These three species are all in the same family, Nymphalidae, and two of them are in the same genus, Junonia, so their similarities are not surprising. All of them have brownish dead-leaf-like camouflage patterns on the undersides of their wings.
Females and males of the Common Eggfly, aka Blue Moon or Varied Eggfly (Hypolimnas bolina) are quite different from each other. “Eggfly” is thought to refer to the blue-rimmed white oval on the forewing of the males, as does “Blue Moon”, while “Varied” probably refers to the females, which have several different colour forms. There’s more on the variation of the species in this older post.
Graphium eurypylus, the Pale Triangle, appears in both this blue form and in a pale greenish-yellow; the undersides are similar to the upper sides but have a few flecks of bright red. About the same size as the Eggfly and Migrants, it is one of the smaller members of the Swallowtail family, Papilionidae.
We have four species of Migrant in our area. They are White, Lemon, Yellow and Orange by name but since (1) they are all much the same size and colour; (2) they fly fast and high up, rarely landing for long (and almost never with their wings spread); and (3) each species has seasonal colour forms, it’s often impossible to be sure which species you’re looking at. These, however, are both Lemons, the commonest of the four species in Townsville.
The Migrants belong to the Pieridae family. If we add together the number of species of Pieridae, Papilionidae and Nymphalidae we have about a third of Australia’s butterflies. Another third are Lycaenidae, the Blues, which are mostly small but still very clearly butterflies, and the last third are Hesperiidae, the Skippers and Darters, which are more like moths than any of the other families. They are fast, agile fliers (which accounts for their name), heavy-bodied, with small wings. Most of them are brownish and so much alike (see them here) that, frankly, I gave up long ago on trying to identify them.