Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Wildlife Wednesday - butterflies

On my recent holiday to Cairns, as well as diving, we went to the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary at Kuranda (

You know I'm fond of butterflies, so this was rather high on my agenda. There's something magical about a butterfly fluttering on to you and the little drift of air as the wings flutter.

This place has a walk-through butterfly 'aviary' where butterflies can come and land on you - as Mr E found out. He wasn't as excited by it as I was!

But the part I really loved, was the butterfly laboratory. You didn't get to go inside but they had glass viewing areas where you could watch what was happening.

In the laboratory, they sterilise the food for the caterpillars, making sure that there aren't any germs for them to pick up, or predators to eat them. The caterpillars are cared for so that 90% of eggs, hatch and survive to butterflies. In the wild, this percentage was much much lower (although I can't remember it. Maybe 15% or so).

The lifespan of the butterflies was interesting, and I took a photo of that information board so I wouldn't forget it!

The Ulysses Butterfly is my favourite. The bright blue is so completely shocking and vibrant, when you see one you really can't be mistaken. It makes my heart race and my hands go all sweaty...and I know that makes no sense, but the thrill of seeing one is incredible for me.

Ulysses Butterfly
When I was in Cairns in 1988/89, I did a bushwalking trip into the Daintree rainforest and these butterflies were everywhere. They thrilled me then. In those days, I had a film camera (there was no digital) and I was limited in my photo taking. These butterflies just don't seem to stop moving, so I never got a photo of one. My aim was to get a picture here at the butterfly sanctuary, so I'd have one. The thing that shocked me at the sanctuary was that when a Ulysses rests, it's wings fold above its body and there is no blue. I couldn't even tell that it was a Ulysses. They didn't rest for long, but they could have been sitting somewhere next to me, and I'd never know! Cheeky things :)

This is some of the stuff I learned in the laboratory (I bought a sheet so I'd remember!) -

  • Female lay eggs on host plants and different species have different host plants
  • there can be up to 300 eggs laid
  • when the eggs hatch, they become caterpillars that devour the host plant
  • when the caterpillar reaches a certain age and size, it stops eating and pupates (the age and size differs for each species)
  • when all the changes from a caterpillar to a butterfly have happened (inside the pupae case), a crumpled butterfly emerges. It takes a few minutes for the butterfly to get its juices flowing into the wings and pump them wildly
  • then the butterfly goes off to find a mate, and start the cycle over again.
Maybe a Red Lacewing
At the butterfly sanctuary, they had a small aviary for newly emerged butterflies. They remained in there for a few hours before being released into the large aviary, where they could find their mate.

It was a fascinating place. I think I could have spent hours there...maybe even asked them for work!

I could imagine spending all day marveling over butterflies - but maybe my fascination would wear off in a few hours :)

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