Tags: ULYSSES SWALLOWTAIL. Butterflies. Native Australian wildlife. Caterpillars
One of the most exquisite and brightly coloured butterfly species in Australia is the Ulysses Swallowtail. They can be viewed in all their splendor at the beautiful Butterfly House on Bribie Island where their striking iridescent blue wings can be spotted fluttering through the foliage. They are not native to Bribie Island preferring the warmer climates of the tropical north. The undersides of their large wings with a span of 106 – 108 mm are brown with a few yellow spots.
When they land their wings are folded looking a little like a leaf and are quite difficult to spot at this time. Because of the brilliant colours on the upper side of their wings they can easily be seen by predators when in flight. To combat this Swallowtails fly quickly while zipping through the foliage in an erratic manner. Females which are duller in colour lay bluish eggs on the leaves of their host trees such as the Pink Evodia and other closely related plants. When the caterpillars hatch they will eat only the fresh young leaves.
Landed with wings folded
They are of similar colour to the foliage thus providing them with an effective camouflage. Caterpillars go through several changes before they pupate. The pupa is 38 mm and is attached to the plant by a silken girdle. When the butterflies emerge with only 3 weeks to live their time is spent reproducing and eating pollen and nectar from a variety of flowers. Each year several generations are produced.
Ulysses Swallowtails have tails on their wings, hence the name Swallowtail. Antennae are used for smelling and breathing is performed through holes in the sides of their bodies. They have compound eyes with many lenses which enable them to see from a good distance. Their feet have little claws which help to grip and are also used for tasting. Butterflies do not have mouths instead a long and tubelike proboscis is used to penetrate deep into the flowers to extract nectar and pollen.
Ulysses in flight
When not in use the proboscis is curled under the head. If the temperature is too cold Swallowtails cannot continue eating and flying and will land and sit with wings outstretched in the sun. Veins in the wings carry heat to the body. Wings are scaly and their blood is colourless. These butterflies are protected by the Australian Government. There was a time when the species was becoming threatened so host trees were planted in many areas and the threat is being addressed. Common names are Mountain Blue Butterfly and Blue Emperor. A license is required to keep and breed the Ulysses swallowtails.