Not only does the Gold Dust Wattle (acacia acinacea) have a beautiful name and beautiful flowers, it has also brought new life into the garden; and new learning into our life!
We noticed caterpillars on it a while ago and they were covered in ants, but apparently unperturbed. Then they went into chrysalis stage and still were covered by ants. Now in the last couple of days we are having lots of beautiful butterflies hatching. They are getting busy in the wattle making the next generation and they are also really enjoying the flowers on our garlic chives.
The butterflies are called Common Imperial Blue. They are amazing.
Butterflies in the family Lycaenidae are known as ‘the blues’ and some species are famous for their relationships with ants.
Standard Common Name
Common Imperial Blue Butterfly
The Imperial Blue Butterfly has a tail on the base of each hind wing. While resting, the tails blow in the wind and look like antennae. This may fool predators into attacking the more dispensable tails, rather than the head, of the butterfly.
The Common Imperial Blue Butterfly lives in urban areas, forests and woodlands, heath.
Other behaviours and adaptations
Ants swarm and surround the caterpillars of the Common Imperial Blue Butterfly, eating the honeydew they produce and, in return for their sweet treat, the ants guard the caterpillars and keep predators away. The black caterpillars are usually found feeding on acacias. The best way to find the caterpillars is to follow the trail of ants along the branches of one of these plants.
It is wonderful to have a garden that gives food and happiness to us and to little indigenous critters alike.
There are nurseries which specialise not just in general Australian native vegetation, but in area-specific indigenous vegetation.
Even if you only have a small balcony, by letting your herbs go to flower they will provide food for many insects and lots of watching pleasure for you! Parsley is very popular amongst our adult insect friends. The larval stages often need native vegetation to grow on though.
If you do have the space, give some room to indigenous plants and reap multiple rewards 🙂
In our area, north of Melbourne there are three nurseries that we have been to:
Western Plains Flora– (nearish to airport) open to public but not for browsing, give them your order using the latin names of species and they will box up the plants for you and bring out to the waiting area.
Valley of a Thousand Hills (Strath Creek) – only on Saturday, call first. Small but good quality and friendly and nice to visit, stop at the look out on the way. 03 5784 9286
Here is a more complete list for greater Victoria.