Butterflies - Order Lepidoptera

This page contains pictures and information about Butterflies in the Brisbane area, Queensland, Australia.

Butterflies and Moths are closely related insects which are classified together as an Order Lepidoptera, meaning 'scaly  wings'. The colour of the butterflies are formed by the scales which cover the wings. Those scales will come off easily and this is considered as an evolved weapon against the Spider's web. Usually butterflies are colourful and beautiful. Why butterflies are beautiful? We have the discussions here.

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Another feature of butterflies is their mouths, or their proboscis, that curl up under the heads. Their proboscis can be extended and inserted into the flowers to suck up liquid food. They are complete metamorphosis. The larva is caterpillar, with a head and soft thorax and usually 10- segmented abdomen. The adults are usually feed on nectar and pollen, while caterpillars feed on plants leave  

Butterflies are most abundant in warm season. The best time to observe butterflies in Brisbane is between October and April. Although we still can see some common species all year round. 

Classification :

There are in general five big families of butterflies. We have all five families of butterflies in Brisbane. Unlike most other insects, the family name of a butterfly is easy to tell. With some practice, you can tell which family the butterfly belongs to , even if you've never seen the butterfly before.

Family HESPERIIDAE - Skippers
The butterflies in this family are from small to medium size. Their bodies are large and with relatively small wings. They are usually yellow or white in a black background colour. They fly in a very rapid and jerky style, this is why they call skippers. They are not as colourful as the other four families.

Family PAPILIONIDAE - Swallowtails      
Most of the butterflies in this family are large in size and with brilliant colours. They are called Swallowtails because some of species have tailed hind-wings. However, not all family members have tails. Most Swallowtails found in Brisbane have no tails.

wpe6.jpg (21793 bytes)Family PIERIDAE - Whites and Yellows
Most of the butterflies in this family are in medium size. They usually have white or yellow wings with black edges, and some have red and yellow patterns beneath their wings. They don't have tails on their hind-wings. Their flight is rapid and they usually fly erratically amongst the plants.

Family NYMPHALIDAE - Danaids, Browns
This is the largest butterfly family, with sizes that vary from large to small. They show a great diversity of colour and pattern, although most of them with some brown colour.  One distinct characteristic of this family of butterflies is that only four legs can be seen. Their forelegs are reduced.

wpe6.jpg (22693 bytes)Family LYCAENIDAE - Blues and Coppers
The butterflies in this family are from small to very small. Most of them have metallic colours, either blue or orange-brown in colour. They fly rapidly and erratically close to the ground. 

Here we would like to thank Don Herbison-Evans for his kindly advices on the identity of some caterpillars and adults in our web site. His Australian Caterpillars web site is our major reference.

1. Create More Butterflies -  by Frank Jordan and Helen Schwencke, Earthling Enterprises, 2005.
2. Australian Butterflies - Charles McCubbin, Nelson, Sydney, 1971.
3. The Complete Field Guide to Butterflies of Australia - Michael F Braby, Australian National University, CSIRO 2004. 

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Last updated: June 26, 2010.