Road Butterflies

At the moment butterflies are everywhere, including, unfortunately, smashed on the windscreen of my car.

There’ve been many years where there have been grasshoppers throwing themselves in front of speeding vehicles (I don’t think they intend to). Craig and I had one trip to Swan Hill years ago where we had to keep stopping and scraping off the deceased from the windscreen so that we could see where we were going. Each one landed with a greasy thwack.

Austrogomphus cornutus image from Canberra Nature Map

A few months ago, it was dragonflies. As they are predators, it’s the sign of a rich year when they have plenty of other insects for food. They are pretty fast, and you rarely hit them. I don’t remember a year with so many cruising about before. Unfortunately I never got close enough to them to identify what species they were, since there’s quite a few different types.

Now it’s the turn of the butterflies. The most prolific at the moment is the “Common Brown” (Heteronympha merope) which has, like the dragonflies, had a huge season. They feed on native grasses like poas, themeda and microlaena which have flourished in the last three years of rain.

The male butterflies were busy back in October and November, but they’ve all disappeared now.

Not onto my car windscreen.

They die off when the females (who are larger and more brightly coloured) have had their way with them and worn them out.

The females then flap around for several more months waiting for nice, fresh grass to lay their eggs onto, so the larvae have a good food source ready when they hatch. Dry summer grass is less desirable.

While they wait they flutter apparently aimlessly, everywhere. It feels a little like one of those Disney movies where the heroine is skipping through the forest with an entourage of flying creatures, except I’m in a car and it’s mainly grassland. You see more on the roads simply because you are driving past more individuals. Some you can dodge because they’re fairly slow and obvious. Others you can’t. They’re very hard to photograph flying because of the dipping and fluttering. Even when they come to land, they often close their wings and become almost quite inconspicuous.

I did manage to get a couple of photos of them landing to, I assume, get a drink and a snack from a bucket of mouldy figs I left near the front door.

The European wasps were also very attracted. They’ve been having a big year, too. Dmitry and I had to step very carefully around them when going after willows in the river on the recent 38 degree day (101 Fahrenheit). For some reason they like to nest in and around the willows.

Also impacting on my car this autumn have been kangaroos, who came in close to the roads in the dry weather before the recent rain. I still have another week to wait to get the damage assessed. Good thing insects don’t come that large.

I won’t miss the wasps in the winter, but I will miss the wandering, floating, butterflies.

Top image by Reiner Richter from iNaturalist

4 thoughts on “Road Butterflies

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  1. Gosh, I relate. I remember driving through Death Valley in California. Butterflies all over our windscreen. Like you, we had to keep stopping to wipe them off. Hundreds must have died on our windscreen alone. I was told they prefer yellow and white flowers. The kinds they have there are square-spotted blue, sagebrush checkerspot,
    indra swallowtail, western pygmy-blue, checkered white, Becker’s white.


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