Common Brown Butterflies
What's in a Name?
Fluttering through gardens, parks and bushland, this beautiful buddy deserves a better name than ‘Common Brown’. So make sure to give it some extra love during this hot summer to make up for the poor name it was given—it’s actually much more attractive than its name suggests, and is a very important buddy.
The Common Brown Butterfly is one buddy already experiencing the effects of warming temperatures as their eggs are hatching earlier and earlier each year. Prolonged drought and bushfires are also unfortunately set to increase with the effects of climate change in Australia.
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. You can read more here.
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. This video shows you their differences (watch from about 1 minute 20 seconds in.)
The Common Brown Butterfly is easy to spot at the moment as they are searching for mates from October through to December. This month is the last time you will get to see the males as they will sadly perish after breeding. So make the most of these special dads this month.
After mating, the mum butterfly will now 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 a nicer environment for her baby caterpillars to live in.
Over summer the mum-to-be 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 so you could consider these plants for your own garden to encourage them into your safe garden. The caterpillars will also eat up weedy grasses like couch and panic veldtgrass, which will help you out in the garden.
During the hot, summer days, these little butterflies need a cool, shady place to get out of the extreme heat. So to attract butterflies into your garden in summer, don’t just plant flowers, also make sure you have plenty of cool, shady spots.
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.