LUCIINI, THECLINAE, LYCAENIDAE, PAPILIONOIDEA
(Photo: courtesy of M. & P. Coupar, Museum Victoria)
This Caterpillar is brown and hairy, with a dark dorsal stripe, and diagonal markings. It has a black head, and dark shiny plates on the thorax and on the eighth abdominal segment. It is usually attended by the small black ants :
By day it hides under bark or a borehole, or is taken by the ants into their nest. By night it emerges, often herded out by the ants, to feed. It feeds on various species of Wattle ( MIMOSACEAE ), for example:-
The caterpillar grows to a length of about 2.5 cms. It pupates in a sheltered spot such as a crack, or curled leaf or piece of bark. The pupa is brown with a length of about 1.5 cms.
The adults are an iridescent turquoise on top, shading to black at the margins.
Underneath, they are pale brown with rows of orange spots outlined in black and iridescent green. The butterflies have a wing span up to 4 cms.
The eggs are white, round, flattened, ridged and spiky. They have a diameter of about 1 mm. They are laid in clusters of up to 40 on a foodplant. The female is careful to choose a foodplant that has an appropriate colony of ants. The ants are inclined to nest in borer holes in the trunk and branches, so older plants that have had borer problems are best for this species.
This adult butterflies are never found too far from the larval foodplant host. The males set up territories in a prominent position near the host and defend it to all comers. If the dominant male is collected, he is soon replaced by another. They can be found on the same trees year after year. The species occurs in areas along the east coast of Australia, and several races have been recognised :-
Further reading :
Michael F. Braby,
Butterflies of Australia, CSIRO Publishing, Melbourne 2000, vol. 2, pp. 666-667.
William Chapman Hewitson,
Descriptions of Three New Species of Lycaenidae,
Entomologist's Monthly Magazine,
Volume 12, Part 2 (1875), p. 38.
(updated 25 December 2009, 23 February 2014)