Backyard Buddies
Common Brown Butterflies

Photo: Sunphlo

Common Brown Butterflies

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Fluttering through gardens, parks and bushland, this beautiful buddy deserves a better name than "Common Brown"

The Female Common Brown is larger than the male with quite different markings and more yellow colouring. The male is dark orange all over with darker markings than the female.

The Common Brown Butterfly is easy to spot as they search for mates from October through to December. They live in eastern Australia, with a subspecies being found in Tasmania.

After mating, the female butterfly will wait until the first rains of autumn to lay her eggs on the sprouting grasses. Depending on the climate the female can delay the development of her eggs sometimes for as long as four months until the rains come and create the perfect environment for her baby caterpillars to live in. The males die soon after breeding and the females die after they have laid their eggs.

Over summer the female will go through a period of "aestivation" where she seeks out shade away from the heat and will sit quietly and recuperate, waiting for autumn. Bushfires can create problems for these beautiful buddies as they are not able to fly away in their subdued state. This is why gardens can be great refuges for the Common Brown Butterfly.

Native grasses are the Common Brown caterpillar's favourite foods, especially Kangaroo Grass and Weeping Grass - planting these in your garden will encourage butterfly visitors. The caterpillars will also eat up weedy grasses like couch and panic veldt grass, which will help you out in the garden.

Did you know?

The first recorded sighting of the Common Brown Butterfly was at Botany Bay in Sydney during Captain Cook's first voyage in May 1770.

The Common Brown Butterfly is one buddy already experiencing the effects of warming temperatures as their eggs are hatching earlier and earlier each year.

The Common Brown Butterfly has been used in the first Australian study showing that man-made climate change is the direct cause of changes to the life cycle of native Australian animals. Observations around Melbourne over the past 65 years have suggested this beautiful buddy has been emerging earlier in spring each year.


During the hot, summer days, these butterflies need a cool, shady place to avoid the extreme heat. To attract butterflies into your garden in summer, plant flowering plants and make sure you have plenty of cool, shady spots.

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Photo: OEH