Butterfly Conservation

    South Australia Inc.


About Us Activities Membership Profiles Articles Campaign Some facts


BCSA is currently developing a series of fact sheets which will provide information on a range of topics relating to butterflies. These will include an introduction to butterflies, descriptions of those species more commonly found in South Australia, and information on larval foodplants and on those plants whose flowers are a preferred source of nectar. Two fact sheets are now available:

  " Butterflies - An Introduction"

              "Attracting butterflies to your garden"

  The sheets are A4 size and may be purchased at a cost of $1.00 each [to cover printing costs] and requests should be sent to:                                              


C/- South Australian Museum

       North Terrace, Adelaide,   5000

 Please include stamps to cover the cost of the sheets and a 50c stamp for return postage.


                       BUTTERFLY CONSERVATION SA Inc. NEWSLETTER January, 2005 Issue 19 Page 4


The current status of this campaign [ as at October 2007]can be found on the "Campaign"webpage of this website, or just by clicking  Campaign .





Australia Post stamps depicting Australian butterflies.

          Regent Skipper             Cairns Birdwing              Big Greasy
                  Ulysses              Blue Tiger            Wood White
             Amaryllis Azure        Sword Grass Brown     The McCubbin design stamp



Allan Taylor is a retired geologist from New Zealand who has spent much of his recent years travelling the world in often unusual and out-of-the-way places. He writes articles based on his travels, and illustrated with his photographs, which he then submits to various publishers of travel magazines, travel brochures etc. often with success. One such article is based on his visit to the mountains of Mexico to witness the overwintering of the Monarch Butterfly, Danaus plexippus, a most remarkable insect. Click here for this article.

A further website can be found which outlines Mexico's plans to preserve the areas where the Monarchs overwinter before returning to the US and Canada in the Spring. These areas are under threat because of illegal logging and the authorities are most concerned to preserve what is a most unusual insect migration but is also a highly significant tourist attraction. The website -                       http://dsc.discovery.com/news/2007/11/26/monarch-butterflies.html


The Australian Admiral

There have been many sightings of this most attractive butterfly during the past weeks. Characteristically they are fast fliers, can be difficult to approach and when resting will often take a head pointing downwards position. A photograph  of this butterfly is shown on the Home page of this website. Its larval food plants are the stinging nettles  and include both the native species Urtica incisa and the introduced U. urens. The larvae are night feeders and generally pupate away from the food plant. Stinging nettles were ubiquitous in the back gardens of yester-year but are now hard to find having given way to the rotary mower and the neatness of suburban gardens.They are well and truly alive in the front garden of this house in Parkside and in recent days when the sun is shining the Admirals can be seen sunning themselves or busily laying their eggs in this wonderful patch. The nettle has a short cycle but is a prolific seeder. The background figure is our ex treasurer, Lois Hasenohr




The publishing house of Taschen is renowned for its excellent publications of artworks and pictorial reproductions in book form. One such book is titled "Butterflies and Insects" and presents some of the meticulous drawings of a range of insecta by a Frisian apothecary, Albertus Sega, who lived in the 17th and 18th century. This book is a recent publication and should be readily available from retail bookshops. For the foreward by Irmgard Müsch and  extracts of some of the plates click here.

Taschen is based in Cologne and has a website at www.taschen.com 



Though often at the smaller end of the size spectrum, these little butterflies make up for it in the intensity of colour they display.  Boasting vivid, iridescent hues in the blue, blue green and purple end of the spectrum - and in a few cases venturing into intense oranges, reds and yellows- the lycaenid species certainly live up to the names groups have been given, such as the Jewels, Coppers and Opals.  References to sapphire amethyst and turquoise are also found in the names of the Australian Blue butterflies.

  Many of the Australian Lycaenid species form symbiotic relationships with ants.  This relationship is loose or casual in some species, in others it is an intense and entirely dependent one.  Needless to say these ant associations produce some fascinating life histories.  Indeed some Australian butterfly species have even become ant carnivores.

  It is thought that the butterfly receives some form of protection from having the ants attend them.  This could be protection from would be predators or from potential parasites such as some wasp species.

The ants on the other hand get drops of a sugar and protein food reward for their efforts.  This is produced by glands located near the rear end of the caterpillars.

  To fool the ants, the caterpillars emit chemicals called pheromones from a pair of posteriorly located, extrusible organs.  These pheromones are thought to mimic the ants own smell confusing them and preventing them from making a meal of the caterpillars.  The ants now look at the caterpillars as one of their own and nurture and protect it. A clever ploy by the caterpillars you will agree.

  Australia has more of these ant-caterpillar associations than the rest of the world in total.  In South Australia we have a number of butterfly species that are in one of these dependent ant associations.  One such is the Genoveve Azure one of the Ogyris group of butterflies.

  Many "blue" butterflies have extremely interesting life histories though some still remain elusive; Ogyris idmo is such an example. Though known to science for over 100 years still has not had its life history documented. 

  The Ogyris butterflies are amongst the largest of Australia's blues.  Despite their iridescent blue and purple colours, they are rarely seen by the public.  There are a few rreasons for this: Firstly they fly rapidly, often high up in the tree canopy circling around mistletoe clumps that the caterpillars feed upon.  Secondly their undersides are marked with "bark like" cryptic patterns and colouration allowing them to camouflage well when resting with their wings closed over their backs.

  The Genoveve Azure lays its eggs on trees that have the appropriate mistletoe clumps (usually Amyema miquelii) established and have the odour of the right ant (Campanotus - Sugar ants).  The eggs are laid on the twigs and butt of the mistletoe and often under bark or in pits and scars of the branches and stem of the host tree. It is believed that upon hatching the larvae are found by foraging Campanotus ants and moved to a temporary crèche under bark or in knot hole near one of the mistletoe clumps.

  After dark the caterpillars are herded by the ants to feed on the mistletoe, protected whilst there, and herded back to safety when feeding has finished.  As the caterpillars grow, a larger hiding place is soon required. This could be a hollowed out broken branch or a large piece of bark but it most usually underground with the ants.  A nest that has scores of caterpillars in it, is a frenzy of activity at feeding time.  The caterpillars are often accompanied by hundreds of ants. The ants nudge the caterpillars and run all over them coaxing them away from danger dragging at them if they perceive a need. On some trees the caterpillars need to be herded 30 metres up to the mistletoe to graze on the leaves and flower buds so you can imagine the activity.  When the caterpillars are large enough they pupate in their daytime resting sites. The ants watch over them until they hatch. After hatching ants have been observed cleaning up the site, removing frass (caterpillar poo!) and the chrysalis shells.

  Even though some consider mistletoes a pest, preserving them (and ant colonies) is of course vital to the continued existence of these and other species of beautiful butterflies. Azure butterfly caterpillars are a natural biological control for mistletoes and retard mistletoe growth so effectively that in continuing large number they may even eat the mistletoe to death.

  Because of their wide range of habitats some species of Blue butterflies are commonly encountered, others with their high degrees of specialization and wide range of requirements are extremely rare and limited in distribution.


                  Many species of the Lycaenidae have suffered in South Australia, principally 

                  due to habitat  loss. Lack of food plants, the lack of vital ant species and/or the 

                  distance between surviving populations make it difficult if not impossible for 

                  some butterflies to re-establish themselves.Most of the threatened species of 

                  this group are now confined to large conservation parks



This butterfly is rare and is only known in South Australia and there has been some discussion within the BCSA as to whether the Government should be approached to formally adopt it as a State icon. "Early collectors found this species breeding on A. pycnantha near Adelaide [probably Parkside}and at Brighton and Reynella, but with the spread of suburban development it seems to have disappeared from these localities" - from "Butterflies of South Australia" by R H FisherA.U.A., F.R.E.S.

The larval stage has a close association with ants.




A Truly Remarkable Lady


Margaret Fountaine was born into an English middle class clergyman’s family in 1862 and was brought up with all the Victorian conventions of her age such as painting, piano playing, church going, the family visits etc. After a disastrous love affair and with a just sufficient income she relentlessly pursued her growing passion for collecting butterflies. As a single lady she travelled by ship, by horse and wagon, horseback, by bicycle and by foot through the Austro-Hungarian Empire, through the Turkey of Abdul the Damned, across the India of the Raj to the edge of Tibet, to Africa, the Americas and even Australia. All this with her net, camphor and boxes, at times in appalling weather conditions and on not a few occasions under threat from the local male peasantry.

In between her adventures with would be male suitors, all described in her memoirs, she collected some 22,000 butterfly specimens which she sent back to England where she returned regularly to sort and arrange her collections. In addition to her primary collection she added many meticulous drawings of butterfly life cycles and she was also a keen photographer of times and places. In her later thirties she at last succumbed to the passions of the flesh with her Turkish dragoman from Syria who became her lover and lasting companion for the next 28 years. He was perhaps in some ways the most unsuitable of all her potential lovers.

Margaret gave her complete collection, to be known as the Fountaine-Neimy [her Syrian companion] Collection to the Norwich Museum. A locked and japanned box was included with the instruction that it was not to be opened until April 15th, 1978 on which occasion it was found to contain twelve diaries from 1878 to 1939 each the size of a London telephone directory and all in her meticulous handwriting. They form the basis of a book of her adventurous, unconventional and eccentric life called "Love among the Butterflies" – a beautifully illustrated and wonderful book if you can find a copy.[Amazon has second-hand copies for sale]

       Several specimens from the African collection

    Butterfly hunting at Palm Springs on a US visit

Portrait of the young Margaret Elizabeth Fountaine