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Butterflies, beaches and Ballambar - Summer on the Bank Australia Conservation Reserve

Fiery Jewel Butterfly (Hypochrysops ignitus) Photo copyright Fabian Douglas Fiery Jewel Butterfly (Hypochrysops ignitus) Photo copyright Fabian Douglas

Written by Elisa Raulings, Business Unit Leader

Summer is here, and Greening Australia’s resident ecologist, Jess Gardner, can’t wait to pack her bags, fill up the car and head towards the coast for a holiday. Jess will drive five hours from the Bank Australia Conservation Reserve to get there. Hot on her heels will be a suite of amazing migratory butterflies. The colourful insects will fly all the way from the reserve in Wimmera to the coast by hitchhiking on the wind.

In the Indigenous calendar, December is the season of butterflies, or Ballambar, and at the Bank Australia reserve the insects are busily getting ready to go on their summer holidays too, fuelling up for their long distance flight by feeding on the nectar from the reserve’s many different wildflowers. Before they leave, they will lay their eggs here, so that the next generation of butterflies can take their place in the reserve.

Wildflowers on the Bank Australia Conservation Reserve. From left to bottom right: Caladenia sp, Violet Honey-myrtle (Melaleuca wilsonii), Flax Lilly (Dianella revoluta) and Common everlasting (Chrysacephalum apiculatum) Wildflowers on the Bank Australia Conservation Reserve. From left to bottom right: Caladenia sp, Violet Honey-myrtle (Melaleuca wilsonii), Flax Lilly (Dianella revoluta) and Common everlasting (Chrysacephalum apiculatum)

Insect expert Fabian Douglas is running surveys across the reserve in this season of Ballambar, to see what unique and special insects live there and how we can best protect them.

One of these is the beautiful but rare Fiery Jewel butterfly which depend on the food and homes the Bank Australia Conservation Reserve provides. These butterflies rely on the reserve’s resident coconut ants to build their custom-designed caterpillar homes. In return, the butterflies leave food for the ants as a way of saying thank you.  Our ecologist Jess understands the importance of these butterfly and ant friendships, and will manage the site carefully to ensure the reserve’s Fiery Jewel butterflies are protected into the future.

Caper White Butterfly (Belenois java teutonia). Photo copyright Fabian Douglas Caper White Butterfly (Belenois java teutonia). Photo copyright Fabian Douglas

Over the next few months of Ballambar, Fabian will continue hunting for other species of insects to help us improve the science and management of the reserve.  So as we all wind down for summer holidays, keep a look out for our remarkable butterfly friends as they journey to the coast.