How amazing it is to see thousands of butterflies up close! I was not prepared to be so stunned when I entered the huge enclosure, but found myself speechless as I realised what I was looking at. A guide was speaking to me, but I could not even hear what she said, let alone reply …. I was absorbed in the butterflies at once.
Butterflies are fed a special nectar, which attracts them to the feeding stations. Some, like the fabulous electric blue Ulysses butterfly close their wings when they land, so they blend into their surroundings better and survive a little longer. This means that all the photographers, and that is almost everyone these days, spend ages trying to get a shot of their brilliant blue wings.
Can you tell this is the same butterfly as the brownish one above? This time the wings are open, and not fluttering. We were shown how eggs are collected from the plants on which they are laid, and taken into the breeding laboratory, where everything is sterilised to prevent disease. About 90% of the collected eggs hatch and are raised to maturity, whereas in the wild the rate of success is about 2%.
Eggs are scraped into petrie dishes …
caterpillars are carefully moved onto fresh food plants every day ….
until they are ready to pupate, and then emerge as new butterflies. About 2000 butterflies are released into the Sanctuary every week.
Another Ulysses butterfly with wings closed …. and below, the Queen of the collection, a female Cairns Birdwing butterfly.
This extraordianry creature is the male Cairns Birdwing butterfly, Australia's largest endemic butterfly. When the wings are open it is mostly green. Males are smaller than females, who don't fly much, but save their strength to lay their eggs after mating.
Children of all ages absolutely loved it …. showing everyone the butterflies that perched so graciously on their fingers, heads, clothing, backpacks …anywhere!!
What a treasure!
There are lots more butterlfies to share later!