Tag Archives: Union Jack Butterfly

Flashes of colour on the wing

We’ve had a few drizzly Daintree days recently – probably our least favourite weather when there is just enough rain to make outside work unappealing. It’s not cold but on those drizzly days everything feels damp and I long for a few hours of sunshine.

In the last few months, while Allen has been gradually recovering from an unfortunately rapid descent through one of our Mangosteen trees, he has been using his lighter Olympus camera as he quietly wanders around our tracks. While we have both always admired and photographed butterflies this year Allen has managed to take photos of a few species we had not previously identified. He has the required patience and has also been inspired by the recent acquisition of a new book. ‘A Field Guide to Butterflies of Australia’ written by Gary Sankowsky is a companion volume to his ‘All About Butterflies of Australia’ both published by Reed New Holland. The descriptions of both butterflies and their host plants in addition to photographs of both make identification so much easier and we’ve been having a lot of fun sharing the pleasure of learning.

The butterflies in the following photos are all members of the family Pieridae, known in a general sense as Whites and Yellows.

Union Jack – Delias mysis

We have several different species of Mistletoe and many of them are suitable host plants for this colourful butterfly. Gary describes it as usually being found in rainforest and spreading out to Melaleuca wetlands near the coast which makes this property perfectly suited. It is not surprising that it is our most commonly sighted species of Delias but as similar bright colours occur in many of the Jezabels it is always worth a careful look to confirm identification.

Common Jezabel – Delias nigrina on Mammey Sapote flowers
Common Jezabel – upper wings
Yellow-banded Jezabel – Delias ennia nigidius female

Here is an example of ‘yellow’ – like sunshine on the wing!

Lemon Migrant – Catopsilia pomona … female dry season form

Lemon migrants have a slight colour variation, during the wet season they appear in lemon/lime tones.

Lemon Migrant – wet season colour

Common Grass Yellows are indeed both common and widespread over much of Australia. They are delightfully active butterflies, with gorgeous yellow wings giving colour and movement to our landscape.

Common Grass Yellow – Eurema hecabe

‘Yellows’ can be hard to positively identify without a photo and digital photography gives us the opportunity for a close look. I must admit that I rather naively expected the host plant list to at least include some grasses but this does not appear to be so. There is quite an extensive list of host plants which helps explain their wide distribution. Gary Sankowsky has listed the Best Garden Host Plant as Breynia stipitata, a local rainforest species known as Fart Bush which readily self-sows in our garden. While I know its little red berries are consumed by birds, apparently not sensitive to their toxicity, I am glad to know that its leaves are providing food for the Common Grass Yellow larvae.

A variety of Scales

Ulysses (Papilo ulysses) on Callistemon flower

Ulysses (Papilo ulysses) on Callistemon flower

Towards the end of the ‘wet’ we often experience extended periods of drizzly rain but now we are happily enjoying some clear, starry nights and beautiful sunny days.  Although cool, the evenings are quite pleasant as long as we remember to put on some extra clothes and to close all the doors to keep in some of the day’s warmth.

Butterflies have been busy feeding on flowering Callistemon – a good height for some photos unlike the Melaleucas which are also very popular with the nectar lovers but too high for me to get a good photo.  Both Melaleuca and Callistemon flowers are constantly visited by birds and butterflies during the day and Spectacled Fruit Bats feast on the Melaleucas at night.  Even though this photo could have been sharper I can’t resist including it because I was so pleased to have two Ulysses in the one shot!   The host plant for Ulysses is Corkwood (Melicope elleryana) a fast growing Rainforest tree which we often include in our revegetation work.

Union Jack Butterfly (Delias mysis mysis)

Union Jack Butterfly (Delias mysis mysis)

The larvae of Union Jack butterflies (Delias mysis mysis) feed on the broad leaves of a red-flowering Mistletoe according to Common & Waterhouse.  Although Mistletoe is a parasitic plant it provides a good source of nectar and so we don’t make much of an effort to discourage it especially as it often flowers when there is little else available.

Now that the days are cooler the cold-blooded creatures are being seen a little more frequently as they make the most of any  patches of sunlight.  I disturbed this young Red-bellied Black Snake (Pseudechis porphyriacus) which was lying quietly on some dead grass until I walked down the hill concentrating on the water ahead of me and not watching where I was going. When I heard a movement on the grass I saw that I had disturbed this poor fellow but managed to get a quick photo before he slid off into another pile of mulch.  Although they are a venomous snake we don’t consider Red-bellied Blacks a threat to our safety.  Like most snakes they would prefer to keep out of our way whenever possible.  It appears that this snake has attempted to make itself look bigger by flattening out but I think it looks like it needs a good feed!

Red-bellied Black Snake (Pseudechis porphyriacus)

Red-bellied Black Snake (Pseudechis porphyriacus)