(c) Jono Bateman 2012.
Ink on Paper.
South East Queensland’s spectacular Richmond Birdwing Butterfly, Ornithoptera richmondia, has been dealt a double blow in its battle to survive as a threatened species.
Despite its conservation status being listed as “Vulnerable”, the butterfly has managed to survive against the odds.
To start with, land clearing since the 1920’s, has drastically fragmented the Birdwings declining habitat corridors.
Within these forever shrinking patches of sub-tropical rainforest, grows the essential food plant for the survival of the Birdwing Butterfly’s Larva (or caterpillar), a vine called Pararistolochia pravenosa or, The Birdwing Butterfly Vine.
Without this plant, there is no alternative food source for the butterfly’s emerging Larva.
The pregnant female will fly up to 30 klms. seeking out the plant, and if none is found, she will die without laying her eggs.
Finding the plant isn’t that easy for her, as it is also listed as “rare or “near threatened”.
And if that isn’t enough, a vine introduced from South America called “Dutchman’s Pipe” lurks disguised as an evil threat to the butterfly’s Larva. By releasing the same pheromones as the real Birdwing Butterfly vine, the “Dutchman’s Pipe” tricks the female butterfly into thinking she’s found the plant which is her offspring’s only food source . She will unwittingly lay her eggs on the imposter plants toxic leaves, only to have the emerging caterpillar die as soon as they eats it.
Talk about a double whammy!
Still, the Richmond Birdwing Butterfly continues to survive. But it hasn’t survived it’s vulnerability without the tireless help from conservation groups that have helped with its recovery.
Planting more vines and removing the “Dutchman’s Pipe” is a good start, but there is so much more we can all do.
If you want to help in the recovery of the Richmond Birdwing Butterfly, there are many conservation groups you can support.