A Richmond Birdwing butterfly.
A Richmond Birdwing butterfly.

Rare butterfly lands in Lennox

ONE of Australia’s most impressive and rarest butterflies, the Richmond Birdwing, has been spotted in Michael Wenban’s Lennox Head back yard.

The butterfly has a wingspan of about 14cm – the biggest one that Mr Wenban has ever seen in this area.

“I’m not right into butterflies or anything, but I know a fair bit about the birdwing now and it’s really quite amazing,” he said.

“We planted this vine (the Richmond Birdwing Vine) because we had been told it could attract these butterflies.

“But we were still surprised to see one.”

Adam McArthur, senior environmental scientist with James Warren and Associates in Ballina, said the Richmond Birdwing butterfly was becoming rarer because of the clearing of rainforest habitats.

He also said the Richmond Birdwing Vine – on which the female butterfly lays her eggs – was in decline, making life even more difficult for the species.

“The birdwings are particularly susceptible to extinction as they are totally reliant on only two particular species of locally-occurring vine on which thefemale deposits her eggs,” Mr McArthur said.

“In NSW there are a number of small and fragmented breeding sites in rainforests from Kingscliff to just south of Ballina and inland near Lismore.

“There are old records of birdwings from Lennox Head, but no recent ones, so this observation is very valuable.”

Mr Wenban is now on a mission to make sure the species becomes even more common on the Northern Rivers.

“I’ve been given some of the vines to give to friends so they can plant them as well,” he said.

“We might be able to save the birdwings.”

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