Rare butterfly checks in to Glenthorne National Park
Rarely seen in the Adelaide region, the chequered swallowtail (Papilio demolius), a species of butterfly known for its large size, pale yellow and black coloured wings and rapid flight, has been spotted at Glenthorne National Park-Ityamaiitpinna Yarta.
The sighting was made by National Park and Wildlife Service Senior Ranger Angus Droogan-Turniski and Restoration Ecologist Sam Chesson while they were collecting seed and inspecting revegetated areas of the park.
“We noticed a number of caterpillars feeding on the soft shoots of tall scurf-pea. We later identified the caterpillars as the chequered swallowtail from a photo taken,” said Angus.
The chequered butterfly is quite different in appearance from other species found in South Australia with its distinctive yellow and black coloured wings that span 72 – 75mm, and the blue and red spots on its lower wings.
The butterfly is not often seen in Adelaide due to a lack of its caterpillar food, the scurf-pea (Cullen spp.), which includes the tall scurf-pea (Cullenaustralasicum).
“The tall scurf-pea is one of many plant species we’ve planted at Glenthorne as part of its restoration, so it’s unlikely these butterflies would have been around beforehand,” said Angus.
Over the course of 3 years of major revegetation and restoration works at the park, more than 185,000 seedlings of different species have been planted to date.
Senior Park Ranger Rebecca Brown who runs the park’s community planting program says it’s been great to see so many members of the local community including the Glenthorne Action Team, Friends of Parks groups, schools, volunteer rangers, TAFE students, as well as staff and contractors, get involved in returning the park to nature.
“Observations in dense plots is showing high biodiversity of invertebrates, which is encouraging birds to visit these areas and spread seed,” she said.
“We’ve seen juvenile eastern bearded dragons in plots planted in 2021, numerous spiders and native moths, in addition to the chequered swallowtail found in the 2020 planted areas.
“This is as well as lots of birds and other wildlife attracted to plants and trees scattered across the entire property including nankeen kestrel, black-shouldered kites, and white-faced herons seen regularly around the planting plots resting and searching for food.”
The revegetation and restoration of the park is as part of a 3‑year project funded under the Federal Government Environmental Restoration Fund to support the re-establishment of native vegetation to enable key components of the nationally threatened grey box grassy woodland to be established across their former range within Glenthorne National Park – Ityapaiitpinna Yarta.
Lead image: Adult Chequered Swallowtail butterfly. Image supplied by Jason Tyndall.
Second image: Chequered swallowtail caterpillar seen in Glenthorne. Image supplied by Angus Droogan-Turniski.
Third image: Scurf-pea. Image supplied by Jason Tyndall.