Kuranda Attraction – Butterflies & Moths
The Australian Butterfly Sanctuary is the leading Kuranda attraction.
It is the largest butterfly flight aviary and exhibit in Australia – an all-weather experience in the heart of the beautiful Kuranda village.
Home to over 2000 magnificent tropical butterflies, you’ll be enchanted by the aerial dynamics of these elusive wonders of nature as you wander through the aviary’s rainforest gardens. Our butterflies include local rainforest species, including the electric blue Ulysses and the majestic green & yellow Cairns Birdwing.
Click on any of the images below to learn more about your favourite species of butterfly or moth.
The Ulysses butterfly is found in most tropical rainforest areas such as Northern Queensland, Northern islands of Australia and Papua New Guinea and lives below the rainforest canopy.
Did you know?
- Its common name is “Mountain Blue Butterfly” and is a large swallowtail butterfly.
- The Ulysses wing span is between 100 and 130 mm.
- The Ulysses caterpillar is green and white which is the same colour as the plants they feed on. This provides excellent camouflage from predators.
Red Lacewing Butterfly
Red Lacewing butterflies are found in North Queensland, Papua New Guinea and Indonesia.
Did you know?
- They are Australia’s only bright red butterfly and one of the few predominantly red butterflies in the world.
- The food plant for the caterpillar is Adenia heterophylla.
- The caterpillars are yellow and black striped and feed in groups.
- Both the caterpillar and the butterfly display warning colours to deter predators.
- This butterfly only lives 7 to 10 days.
The Cairns Birdwing butterfly is the largest of all Australian butterflies and found along northeastern Australia from Mackay to Cooktown.
Did you know?
- This butterfly is easily identified due to its vivid colouration.
- The female’s wingspan can measure 18cm.
- As soon as adult butterflies hatch they mate quickly because they only live for 4 to 5 weeks.
- Their favourite habitat is the rainforest.
Silkmoths only live in captivity as they have been so domesticated that they have lost the ability to fly and therefore can no longer live in the wild.
Did you know?
- The host food plant for the caterpillar is the leaves of the Mulberry tree.
- Each cocoon is made of a single thread that measures approximately 914 metres long.
- Three thousand cocoons are required to produce 1kg of silk.
- Like the Hercules moths, silk moths cannot feed, so they only live long enough to mate and lay eggs – which is also only about 2 to 8 days.
- Our Silkmoth display is a seasonal display with the eggs hatching and caterpillars eating during the months of September to May. This is when the Mulberry leaves are growing well and provide abundant food for the caterpillars to eat.
Common Eggfly Butterfly
The Common Eggfly butterfly is commonly found in five states of Australia.
Did you know?
- They are also known as the “Varied Eggfly”.
- The male butterfly is extremely territorial and will chase all intruders out of their airspace.
- The female butterflies are unusual for butterflies – the individuals exhibit great variability in the colour and patterns found in their wings, so no two females are ever alike.
- The food plant for the caterpillars is Aystasia sp.
- These butterflies can live between 3 to 5 weeks.
Orange Lacewing butterflies are native to the far north of Australia.
Did you know?
- This is a very tough and active species which can be quite aggressive in defending its territory from other butterflies.
- The wingspan can measure approximately 7cm.
- The food plant for the caterpillars is Adenia heterophylla.
- The males and females have the same markings but the male has brighter orange colouring.
- These butterflies only live between 7 to 10 days.
The male orchard butterfly is mostly black with some white towards the end of the wings.
Did you know?
- It is one of the larger species of the region and it can also be found along the east coast of Australia.
- The caterpillar’s food plants are citrus trees.
- The caterpillar is mostly green with bands of white and dark brown and some small spines down the back.
Cruiser Butterflies are native to Australia and found from the tip of Cape York to Townsville, Mackay and Yeppoon.
Did you know?
- Males and females are sexually dimorphic (they look different from each other).
- The females are reasonably big and quite beautiful, they lay their eggs in clusters on the tendrils of certain types of wild passionfruit vines.
- The food plants for the caterpillar are Adenia heterophylla, Hollrungia aurantioides and Passiflora aurantia.
- They have a wingspan of 8cm.
- These butterflies can live up to 4 weeks.
Australian Lurcher Butterfly
Australian Lurcher Butterflies are found in the Northern parts of Australia.
Did you know?
- These butterflies display warning colours, but are not toxic – they mimic poisonous butterflies.
- 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 this butterfly hibernates for much of its life.
- The wing span of the butterfly is approximately 7 cm.
Orchard Swallowtail Butterfly
The Orchard Swallowtail butterfly is one of the larger species in the region and it can also be found along the east coast of Australia.
Did you know?
- This butterfly gets its name from the fact that the food plant of its caterpillar is citrus for example, lemon, orange and grapefruit – all of which are often grown in orchards.
- In the early stages, the caterpillars are brown, white and shiny and look like bird droppings, which provides an effective camouflage.
- The wingspan of the butterfly is up to 14 cm.
- Males and females are dimorphic which means they have different coloured wings.
- These butterflies can live between 3 to 4 weeks.
The Hercules Moth is the world’s largest moth. It is only found in North Queensland and New Guinea.
Did you know?
- The largest Hercules moth ever recorded was a huge female caught in 1948 at Innisfail, just south of Cairns. The Guinness Book of Records states it had an incredible wingspan of 36cm (14.17 inches).
- The female Hercules moth is bigger than the male because it has to carry a belly full of eggs – up to 300 of them.
- The host food plant for the caterpillars is the Bleeding Heart tree (Omalthamus novoguineenis) and Cheese tree (Glochidion sp).
- The caterpillars get so large that they end up looking like green pork sausages with legs.
- They have been known to stay in their cocoons from two months to two years.
- The Hercules moths do not have a usable proboscis and cannot feed, so they only live long enough to find a mate and for the female to lay her eggs – which is about 2 to 8 days.
- Hercules moths are seasonal, however our breeding program is so successful that we always have Hercules cocoons, caterpillars or moths on display and sometimes all three at the same time, usually from September to June.
The lifecycle of a butterfly starts with the female butterfly who deposits her eggs onto a specific plant. The female has odour detectors which allow her to locate the plant, sometimes from as far away as two or three kilometres. The trick to encouraging butterflies into your garden is to cultivate these plants. You can easily find out which are tasty for the caterpillars in your area by ringing a reputable plant nursery.
Caterpillars are fussy eaters, and usually a species will only eat one or two types of plants. If you were wondering why we don’t see as many butterflies around as we used to, it’s because the use of herbicides has reduced the supply of plants that caterpillars can eat.
No caterpillars = no butterflies!
Approximately four to five days after the fertilised egg has been laid, the caterpillar eats its way out of the shell, often turning around and ingesting it. If the female laid on the correct plant, the caterpillar then goes on to eat its first meal, and with a few exceptions, this meal is basically uninterrupted – these caterpillars are the original eating machine. Being very small when it first emerges, the caterpillar soon becomes too big for its skin, and within a week, it will attach its hind parts onto a leaf by way of silk, it will rest for a while, and then literally walk out of its skin. The new skin has enough stretch in it to allow further growth and during its time as a caterpillar, it will repeat this process another three times. Often the new skin differs slightly in pattern or colour to the previous one.
Each stage is called an “instar”. The pupa or chrysalis stage is the final instar of the caterpillar where the metamorphosis takes place. The caterpillar spins a silken pad, then using hooks on the bottom end of its body (called the “cremaster”) which it attaches to the silk. Some species hang head down while other species also spin a girdle around the thorax that holds it in an upright position. The caterpillar then forms the pupa case under the caterpillar skin and sheds the old caterpillar skin. Inside the pupa, the body of the caterpillar deconstructs and then reforms into the butterfly. This can take anywhere from one to four weeks in a tropical climate and even longer in cooler climates.
When the butterfly finally emerges, it is a fully formed adult, with only the wings needing to be pumped up and dried. Then off it will fly, ready to play its part in starting the entire life cycle all over again. What is the reason for all this complexity you may ask? Two distinct advantages are that the adult form (butterfly) eats nectar, rotting fruit or sometimes sap, and does not compete for food resources with the young (caterpillars). Being able to fly in the reproductive part of the cycle also means that the gene pool is greater than if restricted to a small area.
The best way to attract butterflies to your garden is to plant the plants that the caterpillar stage of the butterflies in your area eat. Caterpillars are very specific about what they will and won’t eat, so female butterflies are equipped with an extremely good sense of smell in order that they can lay their eggs on the correct plant(s). It stands to reason then that having these plants in your garden will attract female butterflies from all around your area – some can even smell their host plant from several kilometres away!
You will also attract male butterflies into your garden by planting a butterfly host plant garden – after all, the boys are always on the lookout for the girls! There are a couple of things to remember when planting and caring for your butterfly friendly plants. Don’t have then in a prime spot in your garden – remember the whole idea is that the leaves will be eaten by caterpillars! Secondly – don’t spray them with insecticides. Be careful with the amount of fertiliser you apply. Even that can affect a caterpillar’s sensitive constitution.
Not all the butterflies and moths listed below will fly in your area – a huge percentage of Australia’s butterflies and moths are found in the tropical rainforests in north Queensland (which is why we are here!). It’s best to check with your local nursery as to whether or not the plants are available/will grow in your area. Chances are that if conditions are conducive and the plants occur throughout your region, the butterflies and moths will also be there to take advantage of the food. And while you’re at it – don’t forget butterflies need to eat too, so don’t forget to plant some flowers for nectar. Pentas or Ixora are good as they are multi-headed and have lots of nectar. Have fun!
|Acaias (wattles) A.flavescens, A.holoserica & A.melanoxylum||Some Jewel Butterflies; Tailed Emperor; Damels Blue; Ghost Moths, Eye Spot Moths; Large Leaf Moths as well as others|
|Lacewing Vine, Adenia heterophylla||Orange Cruiser; Red Glasswing; Orange Lacewing|
|Red Ash, Alphitonia excelsa||Fiery Jewel; Copper Jewel; Greenbanded Blue; Small Greenbanded Blue; Indigo Flash; Diggles Blue; Ghost Moths; Yellow Emperor Moth|
|Native Blue Fruited Ginger, Alpinia caerulea||Banded Demon|
|Soursop/Sweetsop annona muricata||Pale Green Triangle; Green Triangle; Green Triangle|
|Sugar Apple/Custard Apple Annona reticulata, A.squamosa||Green Spotted Triangle; Pale Green Triangle; Green Triangle; Blue Triangle; Common Red-eye|
|Native Dutchman’s Pipe Aristolochia tagala||Cairns Birdwing; Red-Bodied Swallowtail; Big Greasy|
|Native Dutchman’s Pipe Aristolochia thozetti||Big Greasy; Red-Bodied Swallowtail|
|Asystasia gangetica||Leafwing; Danaid Eggfly; Blue Banded Eggfly; Blue Argus|
|Flame Tree Brachychiton acerifolius||Common Aeroplane; Tailed Emperor; Helenita Blue|
|Coffee Bush Breynia oblongifolia||Australian Rustic; Grass Yellow|
|Bottlebrushes Callistemon spp||Nectar for butterflies; Ghost Moth; Emperor Gum Moth|
|Scented Myrtle Canthium coprosmoides||Hummingbird Hawk Moths|
|Sweet Scented Canthium Canthium odoratum||Hummingbird and Bumblebee Hawk Moths|
|Corky Bark Carallia biachiata||Four O’Clock Moth (day flying moth and beautifully coloured)|
|Slender Grape Cayratia clematidea||Harlequin Moth|
|Silky Celtis Tree Celtis paniculata||Australian Beak; Tailed Emperor|
|Common Celtis Celtis philippensis||Tailed Emperor; Macleays Blue Triangle; Purple Brown-eye; Common Red-eye|
|Oliver’s Laurel Cinnamomum oliveri||Blue Triangle|
|Citrus – esp grapefruit, lemon & lime trees||Orchard Butterfly; Dingy Swallowtail; Chequered Swallowtail; Ambrax; Hummingbird Moth; Emperor Moth|
|Brown Kurrajong Commersonia bartramia||Peacock Jewel|
|Northern Laurel Cryptocarya hyposyodia||Macleays Swallowtail; Blue Triangle; Common Oakblue|
|Darlingia darlingiana||Good source of nectar for most butterflies and moths|
|Climbing Derris Derris spp. trifoliata||Orange Aeroplane; Broad-Banded Awl|
|Hard Quandong Elaeocarpus obovaus||Fiery Jewel|
|Toywood Tree||Zodiac Moth, White Striped moth|
|Cherry Ballart Exocarpos cupressiformis, Native Cherry Exocarpos latifolius||Fiery Jewel; Crow butterflies; Foam Moths; Large Leaf Moth|
|October Glory Vine Faradaya splendida||Common Oakblue; Common Tit, Common Tailed Emperor; Pale Ciliate Blue; Eone Blue|
|Figs Ficus spp esp. F.racemosa;F.macrophylla||Crow butterflies; Common Moonbeam; Foam Moths|
|Buttonwood/Cheese Tree Glochidion spp.esp. G. ferdinandi, G. phillipicum||Common Oakblue; Hercules Moth; Ghost Moths|
|Ischnostemma carnosum (syn. Cynanchum carnosum)||Black & White Tiger; Lesser Wanderer; Blue Tiger; Common Crow|
|Brush Box Lophostemon conferta||Common Red-eye; Rare Regent Skipper; Fiery Jewel|
|Melaleuca spp. Mviridiflora, M.leucadendron & M.dealbata||Dull Oakblue; Common Oakblue; Ghost Moths: Flowers attract a range of butterflies|
|Melicope/Euodia spp. espM.elleryana; E.bonwickii||Ulysses butterfly; Ghost Moths; Emperor Moths|
|Mistletoes esp. Ameyma Dedrophthoe spp.||Northern Jezabel; Union Jack; Common Jezabel; Nysa Jezabel; Genoveva Azure; Purple Azure; Olane Azure; Dodds Azure; Cooktown Azure; Silky Azure; Amaryllis Azure; Narcissus Jewel; Diggles Blue; various Oakblues; Mistletoe Emperor Moths|
|Burny Bean Mucuna gigantea||Green Awl; Tailed Green Banded Blue|
|Ant Plant Myrmecodia beccarii||Apollo Jewel; Sphinx Hawk Moth|
|Booly Gum/White Bollywood Neolitsea Dealbata||Blue Triangle; Purple Brown-eye|
|Bleeding Heart Omalanthus novoguineensis||Hercules Moth|
|Day Moth Vine Omphalea queenslandiae||Zodia Moth|
|White Mulberry Pipturus argenteus||White Nymph|
|Cocy Apple Planchonia careya||Copper Jewel; Emperor Moth|
|Basswood Polyscias ssp||Hercules Moth|
|Pastel Flower Pseuderanthemum variabile||Blue Banded Eggfly; Common Daniad Eggfly; Leafwing; Blue Argus|
|Zig Zag Vine Rauwenhoffia leichardtii (syn. Melodorum leichardtii)||Four Bar Swordtail; Pale Green Triangle; Green Spotted Triangle|
|Brazil Red Bell Plant xRuellia tuberosa||Australian Lurcher|
|Gunstock Wood/Flintwood Scolopia braunii||Australian Rustic; Zebra Moth|
|Corky Milk Vine Secamone elliptica||Blue Tiger; Crow butterfly|
|Small Tetra Beech Tetrasynandra longipes||Regent Skipper|
|Damson/Almond Terminalia espT.muelleri||Common Oakblue; Narcisuss Jewel; Copper Jewel; Emperor Moth|
|Timonius timon||Hercules Moth; Emperor Moth|
|Wilkiea huegeliana & W.macrophylla||Regent skipper|
|Yellowood Zanthoxylum brachyacanthum||Orchard Butterfly; Ambrax; Capaneus|