The Richmond Birdwing Butterfly (RBWB) is one of Australia's largest and most beautiful butterflies. It is classified as a Vulnerable species in Queensland. The butterfly was once found from Maryborough in Southern Queensland through to Grafton in New South Wales. Today however, its distribution is sadly very fragmented.
The RBWB lays eggs singly or in small clusters on native Pararistolochia vines, otherwise known as the Richmond Birdwing Butterfly Vine (RBWB Vine). The butterfly larvae are entirely dependent on this species of vine for food, sadly the RBWB vine itself is in trouble and listed as Near threatened.
Less than one percent of the original area in which the vine once thrived is still in existence. In 1870 the RBWB was reported as being abundant in the streets of Brisbane but today, permanent populations of the Richmond birdwing no longer exist in the Brisbane area. This is largely due to extensive clearing of its rainforest habitat.
To add to the difficulty the RBWB faces, the introduced Dutchman's pipe vine is often confused by the butterfly as the native Pararistolochia vine. Sadly, the butterfly will lay its eggs on this introduced vine by mistake, the Dutchman’s Pipe Vine is toxic to the larvae that hatch out.
The good news is there is still time to help this beautiful native Australian butterfly and its vine. There are dedicated people working hard at propagating and planting the vine in order to reconnect its fragmented habitat in hope that one day this beautiful butterfly will thrive once again.
You can help, please visit the Richmond Birdwing Conservation Network richmondbirdwing.org.au. Here you will find an abundance of information about the RBWB and the RBWB vine as well as ways you can help. This includes a planting guide, reporting RBWB sightings and you can sign up to become a member of the Richmond Birdwing Conservation Network.