Brisbane Rainforest Action & Information Network

Butterflies recorded by Richard Zietek at Smith's Scrub

It was a good day for butterflies, sunny but not too hot with some occasional cloud. It was my first trip with the BRAIN group, but not my first trip to Brookfield. However, I have not had access to Smith's Scrub before and was surprised at the large number of butterflies present. The fact that we had good rain two to three weeks ago would have been responsible for the large emergence of butterflies recorded. Many of these "Vine Scrub" butterflies are synchronised to rainfall, their larval host plants produce new shoots quite rapidly after rain and the butterflies oviposit their eggs on these new shoots.

We observed two uncommon butterflies for the Brisbane area, the Tailed Orchard Butterfly and the Fourbar Swordtail Butterfly. Both of these butterflies are more common north of Maryborough in Vine or Dry Rainforest Scrubs. Many of these butterflies have an interesting survival mechanism built into their genetic make-up. On rearing some of these butterflies from eggs collected in one of these scrubs, i.e., Tailed Orchard and Fourbar Swordtail, I found that approximately 70% emerged within 3 or 4 weeks, while another 20% emerged the following season. The remaining 10% remained in the pupae for two years before emerging. This could be a survival mechanism for unfavourable breeding conditions or mixing genetic information between successive generations. I found that these vine scrubs are very productive for Lepidoptera (Butterflies and Moths), and many of the plants that grow in these areas support some type of insect.

Most butterflies are host plant specific, i.e., the larva eat only certain types of plants or groups of plants. By growing these host plants in your garden, Butterflies will oviposit on them (lay eggs) and your garden will become a vibrant, living, moving organism, instead of a sterile place to display plants. The larvae do some damage to the host plants but most plants recover rapidly and the result to the plant is similar to heavy tip pruning which is advocated by many Gardening Gurus. The insect factor also brings insectivorous birds into the garden as well as the nectar feeding birds normally promoted by nurseries.

I have drawn up a list of the butterfly species observed on the day with the host plants of Smith's Scrub. Many of these butterflies have other host plants in the Brisbane area. Hope this article creates some interest in growing larval host plants.

Common Name Species Name Host Plant
Common Pearl White Elodina angulipennis Capparis arborea
Common Albatross Appias paulina ega Drypetes australasica
Australian Gull Cepora perimale scyllara Capparis arborea
Caper White Anaphaeis java teutonia Capparis arborea
Common Grass Yellow Eurema hecabe phoebus Breynia oblongifolia
Yellow Migrant Catopsila gorgophone Cassia retusa*
Big Greasy Cressida cressida cressida Aristolochia pubera*
Fourbar Swordtail Protographium leosthenes Rauwenhoffia leichhardtii
Orchard Swallowtail Papilio aegeus aegeus Microcitrus, Geijera
Tailed Orchard Swallowtail Papilio fuscus capaneus Zanthoxylum, Microcitrus
Pale Blue Triangle Graphium eurypylus lycaon Rauwenhoffia leichhardtii
Blue Tiger Danaus hamata hamata Secamone elliptica
Monarch Danaus plexippus plexippus Gomphocarpus fruticosus
Common Crow Euploea core corinna Ficus obliqua
Glasswing Acraea andromacha Passiflora suberosa+
* plant species not observed

+ introduced plant species