Australian Butterfly Sanctuary

Australian Butterfly Sanctuary


Posted 2023-07-19 by Cris follow
Adventures in the Atherton Tablelands, Far North Queensland.

In the heart of the colourful Kuranda Village, is the largest lepidopterarium, the biggest butterfly home and exhibit in Australia. The Australian Butterfly Sanctuary gives visitors the opportunity to learn about these beautiful wonders of nature and to come very close to them. The sanctuary breeds and displays local rainforest species, including the striking green and yellow Cairns Birdwing.

The Australian Butterfly Sanctuary is an excellent place where to spend time with all the family, friends and for groups or by yourself. If you are planning a self-driven itinerary in Far North Queensland, make sure to include the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary, which gives an insight of the amazing native butterflies in Queensland.

The Butterfly Sanctuary is one of the major attractions in Kuranda, with a great display of butterflies, plants eaten by the caterpillars and the visit includes the entry in the laboratory where these amazing creatures are farmed from eggs to adult stage.

Blue Banded Eggfly, Hypolimnas alimena, is one of the graceful and gorgeous butterflies in the aviary.

How the butterfly sanctuary came to be.

Originally the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary was created by Paul and Sue Wright and opened to the public in 1987.
In April 2004 the CaPTA Group purchased 50% share of the business and in 2007 CaPTA bought the entire business.

CaPTA stands for Cairns and Port Trips and Attractions. It is a family-run and owned business.
CaPTA currently employs over 200 staff across the group which consists of the Rainforestation Nature Park, Australian Butterfly Sanctuary, Wildlife Habitat, Cairns ZOOM & Wildlife Dome, Tropic Wings Cairns Tours & Charters, Jungle Tours &Trekking, Wooroonooran Safaris, Careers Training Centre and ABC Sales & Maintenance.

CaPTA mission statement:
We promise to CaPTAv8 the world with exceptional service and memorable moments!

The CaPTA Group’s business focus is centred around tourism products. Image credit

Australian Butterfly Sanctuary Locals Discount.

People living in Cairns and the surrounding area can enjoy a 20% discount off admission into the butterfly sanctuary. Tickets need to be purchased online and locals are required to show a photo ID with their address.

Price and Packaging.

Tickets start from $22 adult, $14 child and $58 family.
If you have a pensioner card you can have a discount at the reception when buying the tickets.

Cruiser Butterfly, probably a male. This attractive butterfly is also found in the Atherton Tablelands.

Lifecycle of a Butterfly.

The female butterfly looks for plants that caterpillars can eat and lay her fertilized eggs. The female can smell the proper plants even 2-3km away. Caterpillars feed only on one or two specific types of plants.

After four or five days, that the fertilized eggs had been laid, the caterpillars eat their shells and then start to eat the plants. The caterpillars then grow very big and need to change their skin a few times.

The caterpillars get to their final instar -stage- when they spin a silky cocoon around them. The length of time inside the cocoon depends on the temperature and can vary from one to two weeks. When the butterflies finally emerged from the cocoon, they are a complete adult, they just need to stretch and dry their wings.

The advantage of having caterpillars and butterflies is that the adults eat nectar and do not impinge on the food resources of the caterpillars. The adults are able to fly and, in that way, they maintain a greater genetic variability.

Every species of butterfly is different and the caterpillars feed on different plants. The butterfly lays the eggs on the right plant inside the aviary.

Life Inside the Aviary.

The fertilized butterflies lay their eggs on the right plants inside the aviary. The eggs on the plants get collected with Petri dishes by the laboratory technicians. The eggs get washed to make sure they are not contaminated. In the laboratory, the eggs develop on the Petri dishes into tiny caterpillars and when they get bigger, the caterpillars are transferred on the leaves of their favourite plant.

When the caterpillars have been through the stage of cocoons and reach adulthood, they get released in the aviary and the life cycle starts again.

Unfortunately, since 2015, the aviary hasn't been able to farm the magnificent Ulysses Butterfly. Allegedly the cause of the unsuccess is due to the change in the chemical composition of the plant eaten by the caterpillars. It seems there are fewer rains in Far North Queensland and the trees rely on the rain to have all the water they need and to keep the moisture in the soil. Rainwater is different from tap water, being richer in nitrogen. The sanctuary is not allowed to collect Ulysses butterflies in the wild, they rely on other aviaries to get them.

The sanctuary has difficulties to farm the beautiful Ulysses butterfly. The colours of the Ulysses butterfly are produced by the microscopic structure of the scales, a phenomenon called structural colouration. The male of the Ulysses butterfly is strongly attracted by blue colours. Image credit

Butterflies in the wild feed prevalently on flowers where they drink the nectar, which is rich in sugar and other nutrients necessary for the butterflies.

The butterflies in the aviary feed on special solutions rich in sugar and amino acids. The feeders are covered with colourful nets to resemble flowers and attract butterflies.

A butterfly feeding in the feeding station. Butterflies drink the fluids rich in nutrients with the proboscis.

Ultraviolet Vision.

The vision of the butterflies, like bees’ vision, is more towards the ultraviolet end of the light spectrum. Many flowers have ultraviolet patches on the petals and these attract butterflies and bees. Humans don’t have the ability to see ultraviolet.

Many butterflies look the same to the human eye, but the butterfly can identify each other’s because they can see the ultraviolet markings.

The ultraviolet patches on some butterflies are directionally iridescent and they can flicker the light. This may have an important role in butterfly behaviour and communication. Some of the colours of the butterflies are due to the structure of the wings known as iridescence, which intensifies their colours.

The eyes of the butterflies can see ultraviolet colours. Image credit

Some of the Butterflies in the Aviary.

Cairns Birdwing, a Big Butterfly.

Cairns Birdwing butterfly, Ornithoptera euphorion, is found in Far North Queensland, especially in the rainforests. The female is the largest butterfly in Australia with a wingspan up to 18cm. The male exhibits a brilliant green colour and it is a bit smaller than the female.

Butterflies lay their eggs only on the specific plant for that species. The Aristolochia vine is the food plant for the Cairns Birdwing butterfly. The female carefully lay her eggs under the leaves of the Aristolochia vine and when the caterpillars hatch out, they begin eating.

Aristolochia is a large plant genus with over 500 species, which are commonly known as birthwort, pipevine or Dutchman's pipe.

Male of the Cairns Birdwing butterfly taking a break on a human.

Male of the Cairns Birdwing butterfly with its wings closed, revealing a bright yellow body and patches of yellow under the wings.

The Red Lacewing., the Red Butterfly.

The Red Lacewing, Cethosia chrysippe, is the only bright red butterfly of Australia and also, one of the few predominantly red species in the world. Males and females look alike, although the male might appear a touch brighter. The caterpillars feed on the Passiflora, various species of the wild passionfruit.

Red Lacewing, a real rainforest gem.

Lemon Migrant, the Traveller Butterfly.

Inside the sanctuary, it is easy to spot the beautiful sun-yellow Lemon Migrant butterflies, Catopsilia pomona. They are vibrant, striking butterflies. Their wing colours can vary from yellow to creamy white, with dark margins. Their caterpillars managed to get camouflaged in the vegetation being green in colour with creamy white lines along each side.

The Lemon Migrant is found across tropical Australia, from Western Australia all the way to Queensland, and then throughout eastern parts of Queensland and New South Wales. Large migrations of Lemon Migrants sometimes occur with butterflies flying from south to north.

The Lemon Migrant caterpillars feed on Cassia fistula tree and other native Cassia and can often be found in suburban gardens.

The Lemon Migrant is a small butterfly, but certainly doesn't go unnoticed.

The Common Eggfly, the Special Butterfly .

Common Eggfly Butterfly, Hypolimnas bolina, is found practically everywhere in Australia.
The male butterfly is extremely territorial and chases all intruders out of their airspace. The female butterflies are unusual, each individual displays great variability in the colour and patterns on their wings, so two females are never alike.

The female of the species is known for their maternal care, with the females guarding the leaves where they have laid their eggs.

The food plant for the caterpillars is Aystasia sp. These butterflies can live between 3 to 5 weeks.

the Common Eggfly is also known as The Blue Moon Butterfly.

Australian Lurcher, the Mimicker Butterfly.

Australian Lurcher Butterfly, Yoma sabina, is found in the Northern parts of Australia.
These butterflies display warning colours but are not toxic, mimicking the poisonous butterflies. The wingspan of the butterfly is approximately 7 cm.

The food plant for the caterpillar is Hemigraphis sp. This butterfly lives usually up to 9 weeks, but some specimens can live for up to nine months. Their longevity and endurance is aided by the fact that these butterflies hibernate for much of their life.

The Australian Lurcher has a long life compared to other butterflies, but this is due to the fact that Lurchers hibernate for much of the time. Especially during the cooler months, the Lurchers can be seen in the aviary congregating in a certain spot where they lay dormant for many weeks.

Hercules Moth, he is not Responsible for the Holes in the Clothes.

The Hercules Moth is a stunning amazing creature! Beside being the largest moth in the world, the adult Hercules Moth doesn’t actually eat. The Hercules Moth doesn’t actually have a mouth, the moth survives on reserve of nutrients stored away when it was a caterpillar.

Tropical North Queensland’s native moths have a short life, 10 to 14 days, using their time to find a mate and reproduce. In particular, the female Hercules Moths emit a pheromone able to attract male suitors from over 2km away. The male moth does all of the chasing of the female emitting the pheromones.

According to the Guinness Book of Records, the largest Hercules ever caught was a female taken at Innisfail. The moth had a wingspan of 36cm!

The large, feathery antennae enable the Hercules Moth to detect female pheromones over large distances.

Top Highlights.

1 See so many different native butterflies of Queensland
2 See for the first time the adult Cairns Birdwing
2 See for the first time a Hercules Moth

The butterflies look very different when their wings are closed. In that way butterflies can camouflage and avoid predators. Colours are useful for mating display.


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222603 - 2023-07-17 01:29:13


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