A visit to the W.A Museum in Perth reveals one of the lost beauties of the landscape which would of been commonly seen in large, glittering flocks in the 1800’s.The Western Jewel butterfly was once found only in Western Australia, mostly along the coastal plain from Perth to Carnarvon. Much of the original habitat of the Western Jewel has been sadly destroyed by urban & rural development over time, one of the few remaining Perth populations was lost with the clearing of bushland at Hepburn Heights in 1993.
The larvae of the Western Jewel fed on a number of plants including the pea flowered shrub Jacksonia stembergiana and the wattle Acaicia xanthina, but only if there was a nest of the ant Crematogaster perthensis at the base. The larvae sheltered in the ants nest during the day and emerged to feed at night, accompanied by the ants.
This relationship was a mutualistic one : the butterfly larvae recieved shelter and possibly protection from predators, whilst the ants got a sugary liquid secreted by glands on the backs of the butterfly larvae.Most butterfly populations in Perth are now sparse, and mainly confined to fringing bushland.
WA Museum Glass Door detail