Friday, 2 December 2011

Speaking of Caterpillars

Ornithoptera euphorion (Papilionidae) caterpillar of the Cairns Birdwing

Some weeks ago I noticed a large female Cairns Bird-wing Butterfly egg-laying on a plant outside our window. Three large caterpillars have resulted and they are nearly ready to pupate.

The butterfly is large, with females measuring some 17 cm across. Females look for Pipevine, Aristolochia or Pararistolochia on which to oviposit. They also inadvertantly choose the large and gaudy introduced Dutchman's Pipe, Aristolochia elegans, but this is fatal to the caterpillars. As a result, nurseries in the range of the Cairns Birdwing do not sell this plant even though the flowers are much more spectacular than those of the natural hosts of the species.

The range of this butterfly is somewhat restricted. It occurs along the coast in rainforest and verdant gardens where the host plants are present from Cooktown to MacKay, Queensland.

What a thrill it is top have such a magnificent insect as a common garden visitor. How lucky we are!


Adrian Thysse, FCD. said...

It is a magnificent caterpillar. Looking out of the window on a fresh fall of snow, and I can't help but be envious!

Mr. Smiley said...

Thanks Adrian. That's the very reason we are her and not there!

randomtruth said...

What a beaut. Reminds me that I should get out and try to find some of our Pipevine caterpillars one of these days.