Butterflies on the Brink: Banks’ Brown

Over the past year or so, we’ve been regularly featuring the butterfly species most at risk of extinction in south-eastern Australia in a series entitled Butterflies on the Brink. You can catch up on the previous articles at the following links: October 2021, December 2021 and March 2022. In this fourth instalment, we are focussing on the Banks’ Brown (Heteronympha banksii).

This medium sized butterfly (from the Nymphalidae or Brown family) is named after Sir Joseph Banks, the 18th century naturalist and botanist. Banks’ Brown has been divided into three subspecies with H. banksii nevina (Tindale, 1953) having the most localised distribution, where it is only known from the Grampians National Park area in western Victoria.

Banks’ Brown (Heteronympha banksii) in the Grampians NP, 2013. Photo: Fabian Douglas

Banks’ Brown prefers damp tall forest with a dense understorey where its larval food plants occur. Larval food plants include sedges such as Carex and Gahnia and Poa tussock grass. Larvae are known to be susceptible to dry conditions so are found primarily in shaded areas of the forest especially lush gullies.

Banks’ Brown are late season fliers, known to be on the wing from February to May and currently known from mountain areas within the national park, above 300 m. The males are fairly active which can make them a challenge to photograph! So, I am extra pleased to provide the photo taken by Fabian Douglas above.

Further reading

Butterfly House – http://lepidoptera.butterflyhouse.com.au/nymp/banksii.html

Bryan Haywood