Sunday, 9 May 2010

The last hurrah

Autumn in the tropical rainforest is a the subtle transition from the Wet Season into the Slightly Drier Season. Days are mild and nights are deliciously cool. It won't be long before I will have to drag out the sheepskin slippers (checking them first for spiders and centipedes before I put them on.) And after that a jumper and beanie and fingerless gloves. Try not to picture the scene.

The change in season is also marked by a decline in the butterfly population. The brightly coloured swallowtails have gone. If they have any sense, they will be heading down the mountain towards the coast, where the temperature is still relatively high. Otherwise it's three pairs of slippers, a jumper and very small beanie for each of them too. Maybe a flannel shirt too, given that we're in the country.

Before they disappeared, the butterflies went through a flurry of egg-laying. While this blue triangle (Graphium sarpedon) was laying her eggs, a couple of small green-banded blues (Psychonotis caelius) fluttered around her. I'm not sure what set them off — perhaps they regarded her as a competitor for ovipositing sites, because her preferred plant was next to theirs. And being coloured blue is just asking for trouble.

I had planned to colect some eggs to raise the caterpillars, but most of them did not last long, probably picked off by the gangs of scrubwrens that forage in the garden each afternoon. I should have been faster. Maybe next year.

Female blue triangle ovipositing on host plant. Neither picture
nor common name does justice to these exquisite butterflies.

Blue triangle egg. It was gone in minutes.

Green-banded blue having a short rest before resuming
its frantic fluttering around the blue triangle.


Lulu Stader said...

Gorgeous *gorgeous* pictures, Snail! As you are putting on the layers, we are taking some off as Spring is finally arriving in Scotland. Snow and hail forecast again for tomorrow ...

Sherrie Y said...

Aha! I KNEW there would be a use for my newly-minted knitting skills! Fingerless mitts for butterflies! Or would that be toeless mitts? Something that size I ought to be able to finish in under six months. Just in time for spring.

Thank you for a post which balances my jealousy over blue triangles with smug relief that there are no centipedes in my slippers.

Snail said...

Lulu, we could have an international clothing exchange. Mind you, that forecast suggests you're not ready to shed too many layers yet.

Snail said...

Sherrie, how would they get them on and off? I didn't think about that. Maybe just a range of nice little scarves.

I am glad to report no centipedes in the slippers.

So far.

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Snail
Delightful report, esp the idea of three pairs of slippers for the Blue Triangles.
I am so jealous of your image. I had one which visited me this past summer, for several days, and all I got were distant flashes of colour.
Fast fliers, and they trigger the "hate" impulse of the Macleay's Swallowtails, which refused to let them alone.
Lovely report.

Tyto Tony said...

Love triangles.

Snail said...

Denis, I was lucky with this shot. You should have seen how many black and blue blurs I took!

Even while ovipositing, this one kept fluttering her wings.

Snail said...

Oh, Tony! You keep coming up the puns I wish I'd thought of!

desertnutmeg said...

Lovely photos! Can't say much more than what has already been commented (which were very entertaining).
I too envy both butterfly photos. I spend most of my time just chasing them around!

(biting centipedes hear too. pretty much the only critter that makes me aghhhh! out loud, no, very loud)

Snail said...

Butterfly photos are soooo tricky. There are still a very few flying around here, but they're all species that lay their eggs on mistletoes --- at the top of very tall rainforest emergents. So I can see the butterflies fluttering and that's about it.

Oh, centipedes! You'd have those great big, fat, fast-moving arid zone species. Urk!