10 December, 2011

All aflutter

Of course, birds are not the only winged creatures which in, on and beside the river. There is a whole host of insects which buzzes, flaps and crawls along the length of the river and were I an etymologist I would know significantly more about them than I currently do. What I do know however, is that some are more visible - and more attractive - than others.
With the arrival of the warmer weather have come butterflies. Not a huge variety - so far I have only seen two different types along the Barwon through Geelong - but certainly quite an abundance of those species which are there. In fact, so common is the Cabbage White Butterfly (aka cabbage moth), that on occasion as I have walked down the river, it has almost appeared to be snowing!
Cabbage White Butterfly
This is the first of the two types of butterfly I've spotted and probably not the most popular, owing to its tendency to lay its eggs on the leaves and stalks of some of our vegetables - not just cabbage, but broccoli and cauliflower too.
Cabbage White Butterfly on a Hop Goodenia
bush at Breakwater
The second species of butterfly is more elaborately patterned and at the moment in my estimation, somewhat more populous than the cabbage white. This is the aptly-named Common Brown Butterfly.
Common Brown Butterfly, Breakwater
As its name suggests, it is indeed quite brown and quite common. We've all seen them here and there, but a close look at their wings shows an intricate pattern of light and dark brown shading with that classic butterfly defense of "eye spots" which may act to fool predators into thinking they are being watched by a much larger, less palatable creature.
A quick scan of the literature reveals several facts about this particular species of butterfly. Firstly, it is believed that warming of the Earth's atmosphere is causing the Common Brown to pupate ten days earlier than it did some sixty years ago. Secondly, these little guys are responsible for pollinating many of our native plant species.
Common Brown Butterfly, Breakwater
This makes sense when you consider the number of native trees, shrubs and grasses which have been used to revegetate the section of the river through Geelong. The butterflies are attracted to our native plants by colour and smell. They use taste buds in their feet - yes, really - preferring flowers which are yellow, orange, purple, white or blue - which pretty much covers the colour range I've seen along the river. No wonder they like it there!
So far, I have been unable to find any other types of butterfly - or moth - including along the upper reaches of the river where I did not see a single butterfly on my recent excursion. I am informed however, that there have been over fourty different species of butterfly sighted in the Otways National Park. They must all have been hiding that day!

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