Chequered Swallowtail (Papilio demoleus) upperwing
Chequered Swallowtail (Papilio demoleus sthenelus) upperwing

Butterflies have been one of the most conspicuous groups of animals in our region (and across the State, it seems) this season. Not just numbers, but species diversity as well. On the Strathbogie Tablelands Common Brown’s have been in ‘plague’ proportions, particularly up until Christmas. Caper White’s and Wood Whites have also been around in larger numbers than usual  (according to long-time butterfly enthusiast Ben Brook).

But the most surprising have been the numbers of Swallowtail butterflies, Family Papilionidae; the Dainty, Orchard & Chequered Swallowtails. The only Swallowtail that hasn’t been seen this season (as far as I know, is Maclea’s Swallowtail (Graphium macleayanus).

Though Orchard Swallowtails are the most spectacular, its the Chequered Swallowtail (P. demoleus sthenelus) that has piqued my interest. Its a species with a cosmopolitan distribution and “The larvae are a serious pest of citrus nursery stock (trees 1-2 ft. in height) and other young citrus trees in Asia and the Middle East“.

The adults have been visiting our garden at Boho South on and off this summer, feeding on a variety of flowers and even though the Dainty and Orchard Swallowtail caterpillars are plentiful on our oranges and lemons, not a single Chequered caterpillar has been seen. Unlike the Asian and African subspecies, the Australian subspecies is not a pest, as its caterpillars have mainly peas as their food plants (Cullen sp & Psoralea sp).

The adult Chequereds in our region are probably immigrants and might have a hard time finding food plants to lay their eggs on. It’ll be interesting to see whether they can establish local populations in years to come.

Download the Strathbogie Tableland Butterflies brochure (3.4 MB).