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Go to: Butterflies of Mt Gravatt Conservation Reserve

You are here butterfly

You are here

The forty-six butterfly species found in Mt Gravatt Conservation Reserve have a wide range of colours, sizes and behaviours.

The male butterflies use bright colours, chemistry and choreographed dance to court females. Some species congregate on bare hilltops (hilltopping) to perform their dance routines while others choose a space sheltered by protective bush.


Local butterfly species that dance to attract a mate

Summit Track entry - wide

Butterfly dancing space – Summit Track entry

Clockwise from top left: Tailed Emperor Polyura sempronius, Spotted Sedge-skipper Hesperilla ornata, Yellow Albatross Appias paulina (male – wings closed), Yellow Admiral Vanessa itea, Yellow Albatross (female – top side), Black Jezebel Delias nigrina, Black Jezebel (male – top side)

A natural amphitheater, the entry to Summit Track, is  a popular meeting place for butterflies in spring and summer. Visit in morning once the sun has time to warm the butterflies, encouraging them to start emerging from the forest to dance with prospective mates.

Common Eggfly - Top - 23 Jan 11 cropped

Common or Varied Eggfly Hypolimnas bolina

Butterflies are cold blooded, meaning they are unable to regulate their body temperature. In cold weather, or at night, the butterfly’s body temperature drops with the air temperature and blood flow is reduced impacting on all functions from flight to metabolism. Watch for butterflies basking on a sunny rock or leaf, with wings spread to catch the warmth.

Blue Triangle - mating - Dec09 cropped

Blue Triangle Graphium sarpedon – mating

If you are lucky, you will visit on a day when there are clouds of butterflies performing. Other days there may be a smaller number of performers of five or six different species, some dashing out from the tree then returning while others will twist and tumble along the edge of the tree line.


Once males and females are paired up mating is achieved by joining abdomens.

Leafwing butterfly2 - 5 Feb 11 cropped

Leafwing Butterfly caterpillar eating Love Flower


Females then search for the right caterpillar food plant to lay her eggs. Taste receptors in her feet are used to check she had the right plant.

Butterfly caterpillars are very particular about what plants they eat. After hatching from an egg, caterpillars eat the leaves or other plant parts of their specific food plants and shed their skins four or five times before they pupate to become a butterfly. A wide diversity of plant species is required to maintain the forty-six butterfly species found in the Reserve.

The female Leafwing Doleschallia bisaltide is very particular and will lay her eggs on only one type of native plant – Love Flower Pseuderanthemum variable, which is also the caterpillar food plant for the Varied Eggfly butterfly and and three other butterfly species.

Orchard Swallowtail

Orchard Swallowtail Papilio aegeus – (left) male, (right) female

Male or female?

Males of some Swallowtail species, also many of the Blues and Coppers, can be quickly distinguished from females by their wing patterns and bright colours.

In some cases it’s the reverse, male Orchard Swallowtail Papilio aegeus butterflies are large, impressive and seen more frequently. However, the females have more colour. .

Blue Tiger sex brand

Sex brands on male Blue Tiger butterfly

Males of other species like Blue Tiger Tirumala hamata may be seen on Monkey Rope Parsonsia straminea vines scratching the leaves and collecting alkaloids to be converted to pheromones and stored in sex brands to attract females.[4]




Blue Tiger - claws 1 - 6 Feb 2015 cropped

Blue Tiger claws



Butterfly Claws?

How can a delicate butterfly scratch a leaf?

Claws. Blue Tiger butterfly claws may be tiny but they are every bit as business like as their namesake cats.




  1. Butterflies of Mt Gravatt Conservation Reserve
  2. Create More Butterflies (2005) – Jordan, F. & Schwencke, H.
  3. Butterfly and other Invertebrates Club (BOIC) –
  4. The Butterflies of Australia – Orr, A. & Kitching, R.
  5. Butterflies of Australia (2004) – Braby, M. F., CSIRO Publishing


One Response to “Butterflies Dancing – Butterfly Mating Behaviour”

  1. […] to experience this special Conservation Reserve in the middle of the city. . I explained that the butterfly sign was positioned at the entry to the Summit Track where the natural amphitheatre creates a speed […]

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