MV Blog


Guide to Victorian butterflies

by Simon
Publish date
10 September 2013
Comments (0)

Dr Ross Field, a former head of Sciences at Museum Victoria, has compiled a spectacular book on one of his passions: butterflies of Victoria. Butterflies: Identification and life history is the result of many years of painstaking work on Ross’s part and covers all aspects of the lifecycle of these eternally popular insects.

Egg Tailed Emperor Butterfly Lateral view of the Tailed Emperor Butterfly egg
Image: Simon Hinkley & Ken Walker
Source: Museum Victoria

Incredible images take readers through the lifecycle of each species from egg, through caterpillar and the food plant it eats, pupa and finally adult. The magnified images of the eggs are stunning and allow us to view and admire objects usually too small to notice. The eggs can be ornamented, ribbed, round or cigar shaped and come in a range of colours. Depending on the viewer some people see a range of jellies or blancmanges when they look at some of these images, (or maybe that’s just me). In fact a selection of these egg shots is touring selected Victorian cultural venues as part of The Art of Science exhibition.

  Caterpillar larva Tailed Emperor Caterpillar of the Tailed Emperor Butterfly
Image: Ross Field
Source: Museum Victoria

Collecting the eggs of numerous species for photographing was a big undertaking; Ross has spent many hours in a host of locations watching butterflies circle until they land to lay their eggs. A sample of the eggs were collected and brought back to Melbourne Museum to be photographed using our camera/microscope set up. Prior to this book, anyone other than an expert who collected an egg would have to wait until the egg hatched and the caterpillar had reached one of its later instars before being able to hazard a guess at the species. With this new guide, the ability for the general public to undertake identifications in the field is greatly expanded.    

Pupa Tailed Emperor Pupa of the Tailed Emperor Butterfly
Image: Ross Field
Source: Museum Victoria

The egg images might also raise questions such as why do butterflies from the Pieridae family tend to lay cigar shaped eggs? Why do the eggs of some species have a series of lateral ribs running around the surface? Is there an evolutionary advantage to laying sculptured eggs? In short, this comprehensive field guide gives a new vision into the fascinating world of Victorian butterflies and helps to educate and provoke our interest into further research and conservation. 

Adult Tailed Emperor butterfly Adult Tailed Emperor Butterfly
Image: Ross Field
Source: Museum Victoria


Butterflies: Identification and life history. A Museum Victoria field guide by Ross Field. Available in paperback from MV shops or as an eBook from  iTunes or Booktopia.

Melbourne Zoo: 10 steps to a butterfly garden

Carpets vanishing before your eyes

by Simon
Publish date
15 May 2012
Comments (1)

Your Question: What is eating my carpets?

Some of us with a wool or wool blend carpet have had the unpleasant experience of noticing our carpets slowly receding from the wall. Closer inspection of this phenomenon shows numbers of hairy carpet beetle larvae to be the cause of the loss.

Varied carpet beetle Varied carpet beetle
Image: e_monk
Source: Used under Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 from e_monk

There are a number of different species of introduced and native carpet beetles.  As adults carpet beetles are small and usually dark, often with patterned scales on the body. The adults feed on pollen and can often be found on the window ledge trying to get outside to feed. The larvae can often be hard to see so finding the adults on window ledges can be a good pointer as to the likely presence of the larvae. As the adults feed on pollen, they won’t cause damage to property but of course will be looking to lay more eggs to maintain the population.

Despite their common name, these tenacious insects will feed on a variety of things such as carcasses, feathers, felt, textiles of an organic nature and pet hair.

Anthrenus verbasci Carpet beetles Anthrenus verbasci on a flower head
Image: Ombrosoparacloucycle
Source: Used under Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 from Ombrosoparacloucycle

These beetles can originate in bird or mammal nesting which may be in the roof or walls from where the larvae and adults find their way down into the house. Neither the larvae nor the adult beetles bite people but if left unchecked they do have the ability to cause damage to a variety of objects containing organic matter such as carpets, felt on pianos, clothing made from wool, insect collections and animal mounts. There is also the possibility for the shed larval skins to cause some irritation to people.

  Dermestidae: Anthrenus sp (larva) Dermestidae: Anthrenus sp (larva).
Image: Jacobo Martin
Source: Used under Creative Commons CC BY-NC 2.0 from JMDN

While these small beetles do a great job in nature of helping to break down and consume organic matter it is wise to prevent them from dining out on your expensive woollens. Undertake regular vacuuming concentrating under furniture or areas that are not often disturbed. Keep an eye out for any build up of pet hair and lint which can also support populations of these beetles.

Got a question? Ask us!


CSIRO: Guide to the control of clothes moths and carpet beetles.

CSIRO: Carpet Beetles 

About this blog

Updates on what's happening at Melbourne Museum, the Immigration Museum, Scienceworks, the Royal Exhibition Building, and beyond.