Friday, November 11, 2011

Fairies of the natural world: Mitchell outback Qld

In many ways, butterflies are the fairies of the natural world. Since childhood they've charmed my imagination and dreams; therefore, the discovery this morning of a butterfly (unfortunately dead) on our doorstep transported me away from the repetition of morning routines to the prospect of flying free.

Looking closely at the butterfly's wings you can see a mosaic of overlapping scales which take on an iridescent hue when bathed in sunshine. To identify the butterfly we looked up four books, the best being one published by Allen and Unwin in 2010 called: The Butterflies of Australia by Albert Orr and Roger Kitching.

Called an Orchard Swallowtail (Papilio aegeus), this large female butterfly lives in Australia between Cape York and Eastern Victoria. It's relatively common, lays large pearl-like eggs and frequents citrus orchards in particular. Silver-eyes eat the larvae that resemble bird droppings -- presumably to confuse birds.

In Mitchell we are privileged to see lots of butterflies; in fact we've identified over 12 species in the five years we've lived here. I believe this is due largely to lack of pollution and minimal use of pesticides.

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