Tuesday, March 08, 2011

The Hatchings

Sunday we were home for a good bit. I suppose because of the good rainfall this year there are lot of dragonflies and butterflies around. We have seen quite a lot up at our level. Yesterday there were many many monarch butterflies. After a bit I started watching where they were coming from and going to.

They were rising from somewhere at the base of the building and flying upwards, past our balcony and onto or over the roof. At a guess over the whole day the figure was certainly in the hundreds. They just kept coming and coming. Time for some research.

First thing that I learnt was that we in Australia know them as wanderer butterflies. They only eat and are born on milk weed plants, which I later learnt was untrue, and their life cycle is typical of a butterfly, eggs are laid on the underside of a plant leaf, they grow into caterpillars, pupate then come out as a butterflies.

They are native to North America and probably arrived in Australia and New Zealand by island hopping in the 19th century as white man planted exotic plants on the islands.

They are poisonousness to birds.

Kiwi Nomad has taken a good photo of one here.

Interesting but none of this explains what happened yesterday. Here is my theory. They were crawling out of their pupas and drying their wings during the day on plants at the base of the highrise. They are pre programmed to fly in a certain direction. To go in that direction they had to fly up the side of the highrise and over the top. I doubt there was anything on the roof to attract them so they went on the merry way to wherever they were going. There was only ever three visible at once, but they mostly flew up singly.

It was quite a special sight. Of course everytime I went for the camera, they stopped coming, as if they knew. The few shots I did take and not worth posting.

Today, Monday, there were a few stragglers in the late afternoon, following the same path.


  1. We saw a few on our Merri Creek wander on Friday, along with an extra bajillion gorgeous dragonflies :)

  2. I can imagine Jayne. Swarming with with them, just swarming.

  3. About a month ago I saw a fantastic black and white butterfly. It was huge, like something you see in the butterfly house at the Zoo. It was when we were having warm and humid tropical weather so I figured it was a refugee from up north.

    As to the Monarch/Wanderer I didn't realise they were the same thing. I just thought the ones we had looked similar to their North American cousins. Wouldn't have thought they could migrate across the Pacific.

  4. Came down from the north on the prevailing winds then Ben, although I recall seeing one as you describe when I was a kid. Wanderers first sighted here about 1860/70 from memory.