Butterflies & Moths
Australian Painted Lady
The Australian Painted Lady Butterfly is found throughout most of Australia and is probably the butterfly most frequently seen around Taperoo Dunes. During spring these butterflies migrate south in large numbers from northern states, with return flights northwards between February and April. During the migration, adults maintain a rapid, direct flight about 2m above the ground. In 1889 the migration was so large that trains were unable to generate enough traction due to the vast number of butterflies crushed while resting on the tracks. Such mass migrations have not been reported for some time.
The Caper White is a small butterfly and is highly migratory. Females are slightly larger than males and have wider black borders on wings. Caterpillars of this butterfly feed exclusively on species of caper bushes Capparis.
Predators feed on Caper Whites at various stages of their life cycle. Many invertebrates feed on the eggs and emerging larvae, wasps and flies eat the caterpillars, and birds eat the emerging butterflies.
The Common Grass-blue is a small butterfly with a bluish lilac colour and
an interesting white spot on the club of the antenna.
The caterpillars grow up to a length of 12mm and are hard to spot since they camouflage well among the grass and clover on which they feed.
Adults have a wingspan of about 20mm and normally fly very close to the ground.
To encourage this butterfly into the garden, all that is necessary is to let clovers and other small food plants survive in a high mown lawn.
Lesser Wanderer (Lesser Monarch)
The Lesser Wanderer or Lesser Monarch is a South Australian medium sized native butterfly with orange wings and dark edges, and a white pattern on its forewings. It can sometimes be seen flying solely across the bushes on a sunny day.
It is similar to the Monarch butterfly and also uses milkweed as caterpillar food plants.
The caterpillars of this species remain exposed on the plant, relying on nature’s warning colours of yellow, white and black to advertise their toxicity.
The Long-tailed Pea-blue is one of the most widespread butterflies of Australia. When at rest this butterfly slowly moves its rear wings up and down, making the small black spots and tails at the back look like its head and antennae, like a "false head". This helps protect it from bird predators which will peck at the expendable back end of the wing rather than its head; a butterfly can survive without a bit of wing but not its body. The caterpillars feast on pea-flowering bushes eating the buds, flowers, and seeds inside immature pods and are occasionally attended by ants.
The Meadow Argus is commonly found throughout the Adelaide region. It is brown and orange with eyespots on its wings, perhaps to scare off predators.
It feeds on many invasive weeds, eating the soft parts of the plants, although some herbaceous natives also make up its diet such as the fairy fan-flower.
The Monarch butterfly, a native of North America, arrived in South Australia in the mid 1800s and is very common. Throughout summer, females lay single eggs under milkweed leaves and when the caterpillars hatch, they eat the plant which in turn makes them toxic and thus protects them from predators. These butterflies like the warmth, so as the days get colder, some will leave for warmer regions. The ones that stay will fly around trees during the day, but from April onwards as the temperature drops they will settle for the night in clusters, gathering by the thousands, hanging from the trees.
Salt and Pepper Moth
The Salt and Pepper Moth has brightly coloured white wings with red, brown and black spots and markings. Some have orange yellow on the head. It has a wingspan of around 30 mm.
The caterpillar hatches from a group of eggs laid by its mother on a leaf of the foodplant and larvae contain poisonous alkaloids that deter predators from eating them.
Widespread and adaptable, the tiny Saltbush Blue or Chequered Blue butterfly can be very common seasonally wherever its caterpillar food plant occurs, which is the Saltbush. The nearly invisible caterpillars eat the flower heads and soft green parts of these plants.
This butterfly is easily encouraged to come to urban gardens and will readily form colonies if Saltbushes, including the smaller, decorative ones, are grown.