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Swish and Flick Being A Butterfly Ninja


Sarah Lacey

Today I went with the lepidopterist (Rod Eastwood – Butterfly expert) in search of new and rare butterflies. He had spied a hilltop that the butterflies were likely to have used as a breeding ground and so we headed there. You cannot take the helicopter to the butterfly hilltops because the air pressure is likely to destroy them, so hiking it is!

We drove to a hill and then had a short hike upwards. Although the walk was short, it was bush bashing over rocks, scrubs and trees, towards the top it was almost a vertical climb to the summit. However, it was worth it. We spent 3.5 hours netting butterflies on the top (with the added pressure to not fall off in the process). I was taught the swish and flick method to trap them. It is best to swish low and then flick the wrist to shut the net to prevent the butterfly escaping. It took me a long time to get this method correct and a few butterflies escaped in the process! Butterflies are also particularly fast, Rod was like the butterfly ninja, spotting rare organisms in the air and netting them with ease. Over 10 different species of butterflies were collected in this site. I personally caught an Acrea terpiscone and a Delius arenthorna.

We also had the chance to see caterpillar of another species caught at the site, Hypochrysops ignita, the Fiery Jewel. These are a beautiful species with shiny jewel like spots. The caterpillar is obligate with the coconut ant, this ant protects the caterpillar. The butterfly is also dependent on a specific plant, which the caterpillar eats and hides in the roots to avoid the heat.