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 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!

 Plant Species


Acaias (wattles) A.flavescens, A.holoserica & A.melanoxylumSome Jewel Butterflies; Tailed Emperor; Damels Blue; Ghost Moths, Eye Spot Moths; Large Leaf Moths as well as others
Lacewing Vine, Adenia heterophyllaOrange 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 caeruleaBanded Demon
Soursop/Sweetsop annona muricataPale Green Triangle; Green Triangle; Green Triangle
Sugar Apple/Custard Apple Annona reticulata, A.squamosaGreen Spotted Triangle; Pale Green Triangle; Green Triangle; Blue Triangle; Common Red-eye
Native Dutchman’s Pipe Aristolochia tagalaCairns Birdwing; Red-Bodied Swallowtail; Big Greasy
Native Dutchman’s Pipe Aristolochia thozettiBig Greasy; Red-Bodied Swallowtail
Asystasia gangeticaLeafwing; Danaid Eggfly; Blue Banded Eggfly; Blue Argus
Flame Tree Brachychiton acerifoliusCommon Aeroplane; Tailed Emperor; Helenita Blue
Coffee Bush Breynia oblongifoliaAustralian Rustic; Grass Yellow
Bottlebrushes  Callistemon sppNectar for butterflies; Ghost Moth; Emperor Gum Moth
Scented Myrtle  Canthium coprosmoidesHummingbird Hawk Moths
Sweet Scented Canthium Canthium odoratumHummingbird and Bumblebee Hawk Moths
Corky Bark Carallia biachiataFour O’Clock Moth (day flying moth and beautifully coloured)
Slender Grape  Cayratia clematideaHarlequin Moth
Silky Celtis Tree  Celtis paniculataAustralian Beak; Tailed Emperor
Common Celtis  Celtis philippensisTailed Emperor; Macleays Blue Triangle; Purple Brown-eye; Common Red-eye
Oliver’s Laurel  Cinnamomum oliveri Blue Triangle
Citrus – esp grapefruit, lemon & lime treesOrchard Butterfly; Dingy Swallowtail; Chequered Swallowtail; Ambrax; Hummingbird Moth; Emperor Moth
Brown Kurrajong  Commersonia bartramiaPeacock Jewel
Northern Laurel  Cryptocarya hyposyodiaMacleays Swallowtail; Blue Triangle; Common Oakblue
Darlingia darlingianaGood source of nectar for most butterflies and moths
Climbing Derris  Derris spp. trifoliataOrange Aeroplane; Broad-Banded Awl
Hard Quandong  Elaeocarpus obovausFiery Jewel
Toywood TreeZodiac Moth, White Striped moth
Cherry Ballart Exocarpos cupressiformis, Native Cherry Exocarpos latifoliusFiery Jewel; Crow butterflies; Foam Moths; Large Leaf Moth
October Glory Vine Faradaya splendidaCommon Oakblue; Common Tit, Common Tailed Emperor; Pale Ciliate Blue; Eone Blue
Figs Ficus spp esp. F.racemosa;F.macrophyllaCrow butterflies; Common Moonbeam; Foam Moths
Buttonwood/Cheese Tree Glochidion spp.esp. G. ferdinandi, G. phillipicumCommon Oakblue; Hercules Moth; Ghost Moths
Ischnostemma carnosum (syn. Cynanchum carnosum)Black & White Tiger; Lesser Wanderer; Blue Tiger; Common Crow
Brush Box Lophostemon confertaCommon Red-eye; Rare Regent Skipper; Fiery Jewel
Melaleuca spp. Mviridiflora, M.leucadendron & M.dealbataDull Oakblue; Common Oakblue; Ghost Moths: Flowers attract a range of butterflies
Melicope/Euodia spp. espM.elleryana; E.bonwickiiUlysses 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 beccariiApollo Jewel; Sphinx Hawk Moth
Booly Gum/White Bollywood Neolitsea DealbataBlue Triangle; Purple Brown-eye
Bleeding Heart Omalanthus novoguineensisHercules 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 variabileBlue 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 brauniiAustralian Rustic; Zebra Moth
Corky Milk Vine Secamone elliptica Blue Tiger; Crow butterfly
Small Tetra Beech Tetrasynandra longipesRegent Skipper
Damson/Almond Terminalia espT.muelleriCommon Oakblue; Narcisuss Jewel; Copper Jewel; Emperor Moth
Timonius timon Hercules Moth; Emperor Moth
Wilkiea huegeliana & W.macrophyllaRegent skipper
Yellowood Zanthoxylum brachyacanthum Orchard Butterfly; Ambrax; Capaneus