Have you seen this butterfly

A local resident at Gum Scrub thinks they may have spotted a Fritillary butterfly, and the call is out to see if there's a local colony of this critically endangered butterfly...

The Australian Fritillary butterfly (or Laced Fritillary) once fluttered throughout the coastal regions of southern Queensland and northern NSW from Gympie to Port Macquarie. While the Australian Fritillary butterfly has always been one of our rarest native butterfly species, with increasing development and the widespread alteration of our coastal areas, butterfly numbers have drastically reduced. It is now nationally listed as Critically Endangered with the last specimens recorded from Queensland collected near Coolum Beach in 1988, and the last in New South Wales from near Limeburners Creek National Park in 2001.

"There have been a few credible sightings of the butterfly recently, but no photographs or specimens have been officially recorded. These sightings give us hope that wild populations still exist, but we need the help of the community to find them."

Mick Andren - Threatened Species Officer, Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH).

While no official sightings have been recorded locally, Tony Moore from Landcare Port Macquarie "observed a single worn male Australian Fritillary in April 2015 at Limeburners Creek Nature Reserve, feeding on nectar from lantana flowers along the roadside. After feeding it flew back over the banksias to the Gahnia swamps".

It would be wonderful if we spotted (and photographed!) one of these endangered butterflies in the local area. With National Threatened Species Day approaching on 7 September, it's a timely reminder to do what we can to preserve our native wildlife and plants.

Next time you're out walking, especially you have any Arrowhead Violet plants growing near your property, take a moment to look at any butterflies you may spot to see if we can record the presence of a colony in the area.

Identifying the Australian fritillary butterfly

 (Argyreus hyperbius inconstans)

Male

Wingspan:  60 mm.
Upperside:  The male is light orange on top of the wings with numerous rounded black spots and a black double-line enclosing orange-brown streaks.

Underside: The underside of the male's fore wing is coloured pinkish-orange with spots. The underside of the male's back wing is a light orange-brown with intricate black markings edged with silver and greenish-brown spots. The terminal line is silver tinged with greenish-brown.

Female

Wingspan:  66 mm.
Upperside: The female has a similar pattern of markings however it is a paler orange with broader, more pronounced black markings at the tip, middle, and edge of the wings.

Underside: The tips of the female's front and back wings can sometimes be tinged with a pale green.

Immature stages

Egg: 0.9 mm high, 0.7 mm wide; pale yellow; dome-shaped with longitudinal and transverse ribs.
Larva: to 45 mm long; body black, with a broad orange middorsal band, some obscure pinkish-orange lateral markings on abdomen, and numerous long branched spines; thoracic spines black with dull orange or reddish-pink bases; abdominal spines reddish-pink, tipped with black; head with two small blunt horns.
Pupa: 26 mm long; brown or pale brown.

Arrowhead Violet

The butterfly's only confirmed food plant is Viola betonicifolia (Violaceae) or arrowhead violet. The caterpillars feed on the leaves of the Arrowhead Violet, and females will lay their eggs on, or near, the plant.

The Arrowhead Violet is a small perennial herb which grows in damp conditions beneath grasses and other plants, particularly long leaved matrush and bladey grass. The arrowhead violet resprouts rapidly after fire and will set seed following fire. The plant flowers during late winter and spring making it more easily identifiable at those times.

If you are lucky enough to spot an Australian Fritillary butterfly, the OEH asks that you:

  • make careful observations and try to photograph it
  • note details of the exact location and take pictures of the site
  • immediately contact the OEH Ecosystems and Threatened Species Unit, Coffs Harbour: (02) 6659 8252 or click the link here to report a sighting.
saving-our-species-australian-fritillary-brochure-cover (1)
Find out more...

Where has the Australian fritillary gone?

Office of Environment and Heritage with the Lepidoptera Conservation Group of North East NSW.

Want to learn more about Australian butterflies?

Butterflies Australia is a citizen science project that aims to get everybody looking at butterflies and recording their sightings. To help with the project, researchers have released an app that includes a field guide to help identify every species of butterfly found in Australia.

Download the Butterflies Australia app...

Butterflies Australia

1 Comment

  1. Therese on August 28, 2020 at 3:56 pm

    What a great article!

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