Friday, 23 December 2016

Australian Painted Lady Butterfly

The Australian Painted Lady Butterfly (Vanessa kershawi) is a common visitor to the gardens of our city of Sydney. However, until this year, it has not come often to our garden. So, why, this year, have we been graced with the regular presence of this beautiful creature?

My belief… A simple change to the flowers planted in the garden.

The Painted Lady will feed and lay its eggs on many flowering plants. However, among its favourite food sources are Australian native strawflowers. This year, we raised Xerochrysum bracteatum plants from seed, transplanting the seedlings to our front ‘Senses and Butterfly’ garden. As these strawflowers commenced flowering, along came the Painted Ladies.

A Painted Lady feeding on a white strawflower.

Their appearances have not been profuse, rather regular. During the spring months, we could rely upon an almost daily sighting of a Painted Lady feeding on our strawflowers and marigolds. I have read that the male of the species is territorial, chasing away other male interlopers. Therefore, I wonder whether males, in succession, were staking a territorial claim to our yard.

Staking a territorial claim...

Taking water from a damp pathway... The Australian Painted Lady is related to similar species in other countries, but it can be distinguished by the blue eye-spots on its hindwings.

Interestingly, many Painted Ladies could recently be sighted in one of our local reserves. As one would walk along the pathways and through the grassed areas, the butterflies would fly up. Clearly, this grassland, with its low grasses and capeweed, provides ideal feeding and breeding conditions for the Painted Ladies.

Wishing you hours of enjoyment and contentment in your garden…

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