Pollinator heroes of Central Victoria: Imperial Jezebel
Posted on 21 November, 2023 by Ivan
It’s springtime and the flowers are blooming, the bees are buzzing, butterflies are fluttering, beetles are looking for mates and wasps are making nests. There is plenty to see and hear across all habitats across central Victoria if you stop and pay attention to the little things. These are the heroes of the bush, grasslands, our gardens and waterways.
The Buzz project: promoting pollinators of central Victoria, is a Connecting Country project funded by the North Central Catchment Management Authority (NCCMA) through the 2022 Victorian Landcare grants, that aims to celebrate and expand community knowledge on the smaller heroes of our local ecosystems, the insect pollinators.
The project has been running throughout 2023 and has included a presentation with local entomologist Dr Mark Hall covering ‘Native pollinators on your property: who, where and what they do?’ followed by a field trip that took a further look into ‘promoting native pollinators from property to landscape.’
During November, we will explore the lives of our most loved native pollinators from across the local region. Dr Mark Hall, local entomologist, has kindly shared his extensive knowledge on some of our local pollinator heroes that are so important to the health of our ecosystems.
Imperial Jezebel (Delias harpalyce)
Words by Dr. Mark Hall
With Christmas approaching, you may hear the familiar tune of “I saw mommy kissing Santa Claus, underneath the mistletoe…”. And while that particular type of mistletoe is not native to Australia (and in fact is an environmental weed), there are a number of plants we call mistletoe in Australia that are native and have another species “kissing” underneath them at this time of year. The mistletoes in question are a group of semi-parasitic shrubs, often associated with Eucalypts – Amyema, Muellerina and Dendrophthoe species. The faunal species in question is the Imperial Jezebel butterfly (among others).
This spectacular butterfly species can be found across the south-east of Australia in all sorts of habitats where there are mature trees with mistletoe hanging and flowers to feed from. It is an early spring emerger and most active between August and November, where it mates and lays its eggs on the mistletoes, but can be active across all warmer months. The hairy black larvae (caterpillar) then feed on the mistletoe leaves, which not only help them grow, but also makes them taste pretty bad to predators – a win-win!
The large adult butterfly is almost entirely white (or greyish in some regions) on top of its wings, with some black edging and white spots on the outer wings. But it is the underside that is really captivating. In flight or when at rest with wings folded up, the black and grey wings, punctuated with bright red and yellow bands, are clearly visible. At this time you may also notice the hairy body and long clubbed antennae. The Imperial Jezebel is a great pollinator and certainly a hero of our gardens and bushland.