22 C
Byron Shire
January 22, 2022

Butterflies on the move

Latest News

Boat people we are

We here in this country, now called Australia, need to be reminded that we started off as ‘boat people’. The...

Other News

Reform needed to deliver electric trucks in Australia

With the aim of getting more electric-powered trucks on Australian roads, the Electric Vehicle Council and the Australian Trucking Association have collaborated to develop the policies necessary to drive Australian trucking into an electric future.

COVID strategy

Our PM and premier have decided to fall back on the old ‘Dunkirk Strategy’: Retreat, withdraw and claim a...

Vale Byron girl, Patricia Marcia Dailhou 

Patricia, better known as Pat or Patsy, was born in Byron Bay in 1933 and was the second eldest of nine, to Horace Cecil Vernon Freeman (better known as ‘Bluey’) and Dorothy Lulu Freeman (nee Daniels). 

Northern Rivers Animal Services needs helpers

Ballina-based animal welfare organisation Northern Rivers Animal Services Inc is on the lookout for cat-lovers to help at their cat cottage, and foster carers for both dogs and cats.

NSW COVID update on COVID deaths – vax stats and comorbidities

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet again opened his COVID update with condolences to families who have lost loved ones, and thanks to the  ‘inspirational work of our health workers'.

Lismore’s Australia Day Ambassadors

Ahead of the Australia Day celebrations Olympians Kaarle McCulloch and Kevin Chavez have been announced as Lismore’s 2022 Australia Day Ambassadors.

The migratory flight of the Blue Tiger Butterfly (Tirumala Hamata) is currently underway. Photo Kath Vail.

Story & image Kath Vail

Recent rainfall was the trigger for the flight of the Blue Tiger Butterfly (Tirumala Hamata) that is currently migrating down the north-east coast of Australia from north Queensland.

The Blue Tiger Butterfly has numerous pale blue streaks and elongated spots on its wings. They fly with a gliding, sailing flight about one to two metres above the ground, especially on or near a beach.

During times like the recent drought, females stop breeding and adults congregate in large numbers along the north-east coast of Australia. They aggregate (group) together in large numbers in sandy gullies or creek banks where they rest on branches or dead twigs in shade close to the ground.

It is after rainfall events in spring and summer that the adults disperse and migrate and head down the coast. This allows them to take advantage of the new foliage of their larval food plant Secamone elliptica, commonly known as the corky milk vine that is found in monsoon forest and littoral rainforest. The larvae rely on the new shoots of the vine, because they are soft and easy to chew. The black and white banded larvae also absorb a number of poisonous chemicals called Pyrrolizidine Alkaloids (PAs) from the corky milk vine that get passed on through the pupae phase to the adult butterflies. This provides them with protection from birds and other  vertebrate predators, as it has a very bitter taste and the predators  learn to avoid the Blue Tiger Butterfly. As they become butterflies they can also imbibe PAs from a number of plants to top up their protection.

Flutterings of passion

The adult male butterflies are strongly attracted to the PAs that are also found in the Parsonsia vine, known as common silkpod or monkey rope. The male will scratch the leaves to release the sap which they imbibe, and then they convert this complex organic compound into sex pheromones.

Courtship for the Blue Tiger Butterflies includes extensive use of hair pencils that are located at the tip of the male’s abdomen. It is quite rare in nature to see the hair pencil display, however it involves the hair pencils being charged with perfume from scent pouches on the upside of the wing. The male then erects these hair pencils and dusts the female with the pheromones.

The Blue Tiger Butterfly will be migrating for approximately another week down the coast. As they have a long life-span for a butterfly, of up to six months, when the cooler months of April and May arrive, they can be seen migrating north again where they congregate in central and northern Queensland.

It is important to plant both the  corky milk vine and the Parsonsia vine together if you want to provide the most benefit to the Blue Tiger Butterfly.

Support The Echo

Keeping the community together and the community voice loud and clear is what The Echo is about. More than ever we need your help to keep this voice alive and thriving in the community.

Like all businesses we are struggling to keep food on the table of all our local and hard working journalists, artists, sales, delivery and drudges who keep the news coming out to you both in the newspaper and online. If you can spare a few dollars a week – or maybe more – we would appreciate all the support you are able to give to keep the voice of independent, local journalism alive.


  1. Thank you for your Blue tiger butterfly article facts .Just rode through a thick swarm of them from Noosa to Peregian beach and careful to keep my mouth shut .
    A nice diversion riding out with nature while the virus restrictions on.
    Cheers Roberta Gordon

  2. Yes! Thousands of them flying by Perigean Beach and alighting on flowering tree nearby! Absolutely beautiful….and indeed a welcome distraction from COVID news etc!

  3. Hello
    We are loving these beautiful butterflies as they fly over our house at Sunrise Beach. We have noticed that they congregate in their thousands in a small tree in our garden. It has shiny , green ‘droopy’ leaves and a profusion of yellow flower clusters. I wonder if you know what it might be?
    Thank you, Jo

  4. Yes lots of blue tiger butterflies feeding from a yellow flowering tree at Marcoola. Does anyone know the name of the tree?

  5. I confirm Roberta’s observation that they are thick in the air at Noosa, but that they appear to be heading northwards. Any reason, as you say that they are heading south from north qld.

  6. We have been enthralled watching hundreds of these beautiful butterflies flying north past our upper deck at Caloundra over the past few days. They are a lovely symbol of hope and peace In these awful days. Thank you Kath for your wonderful description of their migration..
    Margaret Elliott

  7. They arrived here in the Bentley hills in the last week or so. Previous years they’ve been a rare occasional sighting but we have so many lately…such a joy: They’re mainly hanging out with the Lesser Wanderers around our ground covering verbenas. We are also enjoying lots of Grass Yellows, Richmond Birdwing, Orchards, Crows, Golden Wanderers, Jezabels…

  8. There are many of these butterflies in my Toowoomba garden. I don’t have the correct plants. Do they eat anything else? They seem quite happy & healthy

  9. Thank you for the information l live at Agnes Water and have enjoyed hundreds of these lovely butterflies over the past few weeks.
    I have lived in Queensland almost 3 years and it’s a delight to learn about your wonderful nature. Thank you.Sally.

  10. We too have been experiencing the migration of the Blue Tiger Butterflys near Lake Cooroibah Old I wondered if it had something to do with the weather conditions or the previous Bush Fires then a lot of rain as we have never noticed them in such great numbers.

  11. What a beautiful site to see this migrstion of the Blue Tiger Butterflies. I have lived in Bargara Qld for 22 years and have been delighted to watch and see their migration most years. It’s such a pretty display. I just love estching them. Thankyou for the above information.

  12. Saw a blue tiger butterfly this morning at Sapphire Beach close to Coffs. First time I’ve seen this beauty in our neighbourhood but it may be that the recent bushfires has forced them closer to the coast to rainforest pockets which escaped?

  13. Thousands moving north yesterday 20.4.20 on the Gold Coast sighted in southern Southport. A visual I’ll never forget.

  14. Thank you for your article and all the details about this amazing migration. They have been flying along the beachfront at Mission Beach, Far North Queensland, for the past 3 days in the morning flying south. Not huge numbers but consistently.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Israel and Palestine

As an apologist for Israel, Michael Burd (Letters, 12 January) conveniently ignores the harsh truth of Israel’s brutal oppression, while claiming there are two...

Greens Mandy Nolan to hold community forum in support of nurses and paramedics

Locally and across the state nurses, and paramedics are struggling in the face of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic as they are being asked to do double shifts and manage effectively in health system that is struggling to cope. This has led to an increasing number of nurses and paramedics resigning.

NSW COVID update on COVID deaths – vax stats and comorbidities

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet again opened his COVID update with condolences to families who have lost loved ones, and thanks to the  ‘inspirational work of our health workers'.

January 21 National Cabinet on Omicron, RATs, vax and treatments

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has issued a media release about yesterday's meeting of the National Cabinet.