Beautiful Butterflies & Beetles

Skyrail Nature Diary: January 2009

Right now is arguably the best time of year to see some of the rainforest’s most beautiful beetles and butterflies, including the stunning Ulysses, the magnificent Mueller’s Stag Beetle, Christmas Beetles and some spectacular Jewel Beetles.

The Ulysses Butterfly (Papilio Ulysses) is one of the rainforest’s most easily seen and recognized residents. Its electric blue wings can be seen flashing brightly against the green rainforest canopy and throughout many gardens of the tropical north.

Its favourite food is the clustering blossoms of the Pink Evodia (Melicope elleryana), a medium-sized rainforest tree with a wide spreading crown and pink, star-shaped flowers. The Pink Evodia is flowering prolifically at the moment, providing the Ulysses with a nectar feast.

The Mueller’s Stag Beetle is another colourful rainforest resident. Endemic to the Wet Tropics of Queensland World Heritage Area, meaning it is not found anywhere else, the Mueller’s Stag Beetle (Phalacrognathus muelleri) has a distinctive, brightly coloured exoskeleton ranging from metallic gold, to green and purple.

Another pretty beetle of note this month is the Christmas Beetle (Anoplognathus aureus). There are 35 species of Christmas Beetle in Australia, so-named as they tend to emerge from the ground in December and January. The particular species found in Australia’s Tropical Rainforests is metallic gold / green and grows up to 18mm in length.

Jewel Beetles come in all the colours of the rainbow, from bright red to striking orange and metallic blues and greens. This is a very large group, with over 1,200 species of Jewel Beetles found throughout Australia. They can sometimes be found clustering on the underside of rainforest leaves.

Australia’s Tropical Rainforests are home to an amazing, diverse and colourful range of residents, both flora and fauna, including: 28,000 species of beetles, 230 butterfly species, 314 bird species and 58 frog species, to name just a few.

The best and most sustainable way to visit Australia’s Tropical Rainforests is on Skyrail Rainforest Cableway, which takes you an on amazing 7.5km experience over and through the canopy of the Barron Gorge National Park, down to the forest floor. The Rainforest Interpretation Centre at Skyrail’s Barron Falls Station, developed in conjunction with CSIRO, provides interactive displays and information on the rainforest’s evolution and biodiversity.

Picture courtesy Wet Tropics Management Authority