Monday, April 29, 2013

Random Gallery - Grey Sailor

Random Butterfly Gallery
The Grey Sailor (Neptis leucoporos cresina)

The Grey Sailor is predominantly a forest-dependent butterfly and is not frequently seen in urban parks and gardens. It tends to stay at forest edges and within the vicinity of forested areas and particularly where its caterpillar host plant, Gironniera nervosa is found. The typical black-and-white striped uppersides tend to get this species confused with two other lookalike species - the Common Sailor and Short-Banded Sailor. The underside of the Grey Sailor is white and grey, and serves to distinguish this species from the other two, which feature orange or orange-brown undersides.

This pristine individual of the Grey Sailor was shot last weekend by ButterflyCircle member Goh EC along the forest edge near a park connector. The species is fairly common and can be quite skittish and uncooperative when a photographer approaches it. A good time to catch it distracted is when it is feeding on the ripened fruits of the Singapore Rhododendron (Melastoma malabathricum) or at flowering bushes.

You have read this article with the title April 2013. You can bookmark this page URL Thanks!
Saturday, April 27, 2013

Life History of the Plain Banded Awl

Life History of the Plain Banded Awl (Hasora vitta vitta)

Butterfly Biodata:
Genus: Hasora Moore, 1881
Species: vitta Butler, 1870
Subspecies: vitta Butler, 1870
Wingspan of Adult Butterfly: 40-45mm
Caterpillar Local Host Plant: Spatholobus ferrugineus (Family: Fabaceae)

A Plain Banded Awl perching on the underside of a leaf.

A Plain Banded Awl visiting a flower of the Singapore Rhododendron.

A Plain Banded Awl taking nectar from an Ixora flower.

Physical Description of Adult Butterfly:
Adults are rather large in size with pointed forewing apex and markedly lobate hindwings. Above, the wings are dark brown. Both sexes have one small hyaline subapical spot in the forewing, with the female having two larger hyaline spots in spaces 2 and 3 in addition. There are no cell spots, and the male does not have a discal stigma on the forewing. Below, both sexes are pale brown with a purplish sheen in fresh specimens. The hindwing has a prominent white and outwardly diffuse discal band. The inner half of the hindwing has a greenish glaze, more so in the male than in the female.

Field Observations of Butterfly Behaviour:
This species is moderately rare in Singapore. The adults have been sighted in both nature reserves and urban parks and gardens, typically during the dawn and dusk hours of a day. They have the habit of visiting flowering plants for nectar and puddling on damp patches for minerals. As with other Awl spp., the fast flying adults have a habit of resting on the underside of a leaf or other plant parts.

A Plain Banded Awl puddling on a damp ground.

Another puddling Plain Banded Awl.

Early Stages:
The only recorded local host plant for the Plain Banded Awl is Spatholobus ferrugineus, a widely distributed vine in the nature reserves. This plant is tri-foliated with leaves and stems covered in a dense coat of hair. Elsewhere in the region (Malaysia, Thailand, Hong Kong), Milletia spp. have been recorded as alternative host plants. It is likely that at least one local Milletia spp. is a larval host too. Caterpillars of the Plain Banded Awl feed on young leaves of the host plant, and lives in leaf shelters constructed by folding cut leaf fragments.

Local host plant: Spatholobus ferrugineus.

A female Plain Banded Awl ovipositing on the young shoot of S. ferrugineus.

Eggs of the Plain Banded Awl. Left: Laid on a young leaf bud; Right: Laid on a stem.

The eggs are laid singly on young shoots of the host plants, either on a leaf bud or on the stem. Each egg is shaped like a bun with a flattened base (diameter: 0.8-0.9mm). Longitudinal ridges run from the pole to the base. The micropylar sits atop at the pole. Initially creamy white when freshly laid, the entire egg turns salmon red as it develops, and then decolorizes again when the caterpillar is ready to emerge.

Two views of an egg of the Plain Banded Awl, the day after it was laid.

Two views of a mature egg of the Plain Banded Awl, with the black head capsule showing through the hole in the egg shell.

It takes 3-4 days for the egg to hatch. The young caterpillar eats just enough of the shell to emerge, and has a length of about 1.8-1.9mm. The newly hatched does not bother to devour the rest of egg shell. It has the typical cylindrical shape for skipper caterpillars, and the yellowish brown body has a number of short white setae. The large head is black, slightly bi-lobed and lightly hairy. The dorsum of the prothorax carries a dark-colored patch/shield.

Two views of a 1st instar caterpillar, newly hatched, length: 1.9mm.

Two views of 1st instar caterpillar, length: 3mm.

The young caterpillar constructs its first leaf shelter by bringing two halves of a small young leaf together with silk threads. It rests within the shelter between feeds on nearby leaf lamina. In later instars, the Plain Banded Awl caterpillars also construct leaf shelters in a similar fashion but do so with larger and more developed leaves. As the caterpillar feeds and grows, the body base colour becomes paler and brown ring markings on body segments appear and darken towards the end of the instar.

Two views of a 1st instar caterpillar, late in this stage, dormant before its moult, length: 4mm.

After reaching a length of about 4mm in the 1st instar, the caterpillar moults to the next instar. The 2nd instar caterpillar has a pale yellowish ground colour with dark brown rings on the body segments (2 rings to each segment). Four yellowish/whitish narrow dorsal bands cut across the the dark rings. The body and the black head capsule are covered in short fine setae.

Two views of a newly moulted 2nd instar caterpillar.

Two views of a 2nd instar caterpillar, length: 5.8mm.

Two views of a 2nd instar caterpillar, dormant prior to its moult, length: 7mm.

An early 2nd instar caterpillar seen in a partially open leaf shelter.

The 2nd instar caterpillar reaches a length of about 7mm, and after about 2 days in this stage, it moults again. The 3rd instar caterpillar resembles the 2nd instar caterpillar but with somewhat broader and more prominent dark rings on the body segments. This instar lasts another 2 days with the length reaching 11mm.

Two views of a 3rd instar caterpillar, newly moulted, length: 7mm.

Two views of a 3rd instar caterpillar, late in this stage, length: 11mm.

The 4th instar caterpillar resembles the 3rd instar caterpillar initially, but with dorsal bands and segmental rings much more constrasting. The head capsule is still black for most 4th instar caterpillars, but some specimens have been observed to feature small lateral patches of red to reddish brown. This penultimate instar takes about 3 days to complete with the body length reaching up to 22mm. As the caterpillar grows in this instar, the dark segmental rings lose their prominence and decolorise in most segments (except for the prothoracic segment, 2nd and 4th abdominal segments). At the same time, the body base colour takes on a greater emphasis of yellow.

Two views of a 4th instar caterpillar, newly moulted, length: 11mm.

Two views of a 4th instar caterpillar, length: 22mm.

A 4th instar caterpillar, dormant before the next moult, length: 20mm.

The final and 5th instar caterpillar is predominantly yellow with black lateral patches on the prothoracic, 2nd and 4th abdominal segments. A much more striking change is in the head capsule which has now become reddish or orangy red. Set against this brightly coloured background are two lateral-frontal round black spots, two lateral round black spots encasing the eyes, and and one triangular black spot on the frons (about the labrum). White setae adorn the head capsule as well as the entire body. This stage takes about 6-7 days to complete with body length reaching 36-38mm.

Two views of a newly moulted 5th instar caterpillar, early in this stage, length: 19mm.

Two views of a 5th instar caterpillar, late in this stage, length: 38mm.

Towards the end of 5th instar, the body of the caterpillar gradually shrinks in length and changes colour to pale orangy brown with a reddish tone. The fully grown caterpillar ceases feeding and stations itself in its leaf shelter. During the early part of this pre-pupal stage, the caterpillar spins multiple silk threads to seal the pupation shelter, and in particular, constructs a silk girdle at its 2nd/3rd abdominal segment and a short transverse silk band near its posterior end.

Two views of a pre-pupa of the Plain Banded Awl secured in its pupal shelter.

After about 0.75 day of the pre-pupal phase, pupation takes place within the pupation shelter. The pupa secures itself with its cremaster attached to the transverse band. The pupa has a short thorax, a rather long abdomen and a short and pointed black rostrum. Fresh after the pupation event, the body is pale orangy brown overall. After 0.5 to 1 day, the body surface becomes mostly covered in a white substance. Several black spots adorn the dorsum of the thoracic segments. The spiracles are marked in black. Length of pupae: 23-24mm.

Two views of a pupa of the Plain Banded Awl, day 2 in this stage, now with the coating of whitish powdery substance.

After 8 days, the pupa becomes darkened in color signaling the imminent emergence of the adult. The next day the adult butterfly emerges from the mature pupa.

Three views of a maturing/mature pupa of the Plain Banded Awl, within the last 12 hours of the pupal stage.

A newly eclosed Plain Banded Awl.


  • The Butterflies of The Malay Peninsula, A.S. Corbet and H.M. Pendlebury, 4th Edition, The Malayan Nature Society.
  • Butterflies of Thailand, Pisuth Ek-Amnuay, 2nd Edition, 2012
Text by Horace Tan, Photos by Bobby Mun, Loke PF, Nelson Ong, Simon Sng, Federick Ho, Sunny Chir, Khew SK and Horace Tan
You have read this article with the title April 2013. You can bookmark this page URL Thanks!
Thursday, April 25, 2013

Random Gallery - Malayan Lascar

Random Butterfly Gallery 
The Malayan Lascar (Lasippa tiga siaka)

The Malayan Lascar is one of four lookalike species found in Singapore, and probably the commonest of the four. The typical black and orange striped appearance and similar sized species - two from the genus Lasippa and the other two from the genus Pantoporia make these lookalike species challenging to identify when in flight. Only when they stop to sunbathe or rest can the identification be made more confidently. The Malayan Lascar can be separated from its lookalike cousin, the Burmese Lascar by the sub-marginal spot in space 3 of the forewing above, which is about twice the size of the adjacent spots in space 2 and 4.

This pristine Malayan Lascar was shot at a patch of secondary forest near Bukit Batok in Singapore. The species has a weak flap-glide behaviour and is fond on settling on the upperside of a leaf with its wings opened flat. However, like its other cousins, it is a very alert butterfly and unless it is feeding and distracted, is hard to approach. Once startled it makes its way to the treetops quite quickly and out of reach of the frustrated photographer.

You have read this article with the title April 2013. You can bookmark this page URL Thanks!
Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Random Gallery - Common Mormon

Random Butterfly Gallery
The Common Mormon (Papilio polytes romulus)

The Common Mormon is a relatively common butterfly in Singapore. This swallowtail is found in urban parks and gardens, although it is fairly often seen in forested areas as well. Its caterpillars feed on the cultivated Murraya koenigii or Indian Curry Leaf, as well as another wild grown species of the same genus.  Other Citrus plants are also known host plants. The upperside of the Common Mormon is predominantly black with a series of whitish spots running across the hindwing forming a band. The female is polymorphic with the form-polytes mimicking the Common Rose, presumably for protection against predators.

Males of the species are often encountered puddling on damp sandy streambanks which have been tainted with decomposing organic matter. When puddling, the forewings of the butterfly flap rapidly, whilst the hindwings are held still.  This shot of a puddling Common Mormon was taken at a park connector near a nature area by ButterflyCircle member Huang CJ, who managed a sharp shot of the Common Mormon whilst achieving a smooth green background which contrasts pleasantly with the black wings of the butterfly.

You have read this article with the title April 2013. You can bookmark this page URL Thanks!
Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Random Gallery - Hieroglyphic Flat

Random Butterfly Gallery
The Hieroglyphic Flat (Odina hieroglyphica ortina)

This pretty black-and-orange skipper is moderately rare, but is widespread in distribution across Singapore where it can be found regularly in urban parks and gardens as well as in the forested nature reserves.  At certain times of the day, it zips around rapidly, sometimes in dogfights with another individual of the same species.  It has a habit of flying and then hiding on the underside of a leaf with its wings opened flat.  The caterpillar of this butterfly feeds on Erycibe tomentosa and its life history has been recorded here.

This Hieroglyphic Flat was shot by ButterflyCircle member Nelson Ong last weekend after the skipper had its fill of the nectar from a flowering Syzygium tree.  At times, the skipper can be found feeding on bird droppings on the forest floor or on leaves.  It will return time and again to its food source even when disturbed.

You have read this article with the title April 2013. You can bookmark this page URL Thanks!
Monday, April 22, 2013

Random Gallery - White Spotted Palmer

Random Butterfly Gallery
The White Spotted Palmer (Eetion elia)

This medium sized skipper is moderately rare in Singapore, appearing more often in the forested nature reserves.  It is often found lurking in shaded heavily forested areas, resting on the top surfaces of leaves.  When there is a flowering tree, particularly of the Syzygium spp, the White Spotted Palmer can be seen zipping rapidly amongst the flowers and feeding greedily.

The skipper is dark brown above with white hyaline spots. In the male, the white dorsal area on the hindwing is less extensive than in the female.  The whitened basal half of the underside of the hindwing is distinctive in this species and it is quite easily identified without much doubt.  The abdomen is white banded above and entirely white beneath.  The life history of this butterfly has been recorded here. This shot of a pristine White Spotted Palmer was taken by ButterflyCircle member Loke PF at a flowering Syzygium tree last weekend.

You have read this article with the title April 2013. You can bookmark this page URL Thanks!
Saturday, April 20, 2013

Butterfly of the Month - April 2013

Butterfly of the Month - April 2013
The Tailed Jay (Graphium agamemnon agamemnon)

This month's Butterfly of the Month, the Tailed Jay, has the honour of bearing the name of the mythical Greek King, Agamemnon as its Latin name.  In Greek mythology, Agamemnon was the king of Troy. When Helen, the wife of Menelaus, was abducted by Paris of Troy, Agamemnon commanded the united Greek armed forces in the ensuing Trojan War, and created the famous legend of the Trojan Horse. It would be interesting to know how this attractive butterfly came to be named after a mythical Greek king.

The Boston Marathon is the oldest annual city marathon in the world, appearing for the first time in 1897. Starting with only 18 runners in 1897, the Boston Marathon ranks as one of the most prestigious running events in the world, reaching a total of 35,000 runners in 1996.  This year, 2013, the Boston Marathon was held on Patriot's Day, 15 Apr 2013.

No one was prepared for the cruel twist of fate on that day when two explosions, planted by obviously mentally disturbed men, went off near the finishing line of the run, costing three innocent lives and injuring 183 others. Several of the victims had their legs blown off by the explosion. Indeed, we live in violent times, where terrorism, whether religiously-motivated or domestic, wreaks havoc on our lives.

Nearer close to home, election fever has gripped our closest neighbours up north, where Malaysia braces itself for its 13th General Elections on 5 May 2013.  As Malaysians of all races and walks of life look forward in anticipation towards the results of the elections, social media is abuzz with talk of impending "change" in the Malaysian government. Will that happen on 5 May? Stay tuned to the results of who will be returned to power.  Being Singapore's nearest neighbour, the political climate in Malaysia will certainly have an impact on our city state, whether we like it or not.  Hence the importance of the elections results to Singapore.

Over here in Singapore, the potential dengue fever epidemic can still happen, as more and more cases have been detected.  As of yesterday, there were more cases reported and the numbers appear to be climbing. As many of us would know, dengue fever is an illness caused by infection with a virus transmitted via the bite of the Aedes mosquito. There are four types of this virus (serotypes 1 to 4) which can infect you. The Aedes mosquito is an "urban" dweller that is more often found in our residential estates than in the forests.  Whenever a dengue fever outbreak is reported, the amount of pesticides that are sprayed into the environment rises significantly.  Whilst protecting human lives is paramount, the onset of a dengue fever outbreak also spells doom for our beloved butterflies in the urban environment as these pesticide fogging can only target all insects and unfortunately destroy them without any exception.

Back to our Butterfly of the Month, the Tailed Jay. This "swallowtail" butterfly is an erratic swift flyer that is widespread in distribution across the island of Singapore. Due to its caterpillars' ability to feed on the cultivated fruits Custard Apple and Soursop, and also the roadside trees, Magnolia champaca (White Chempaka) and Polyalthia longifolia (False Ashoka Tree), the butterfly can be found in urban gardens as well as in the forested nature reserves.

The upperside of the Tailed Jay comprises emerald green spots on a black background. The hindwing has a short tail, which is longer in the female.  On the underside, the purple-brown background has the same green spotting and additional dark purple patches and red spots.

With a wingspan of up to 75mm from wingtip to wingtip, it is the largest representative of its genus in Singapore.  It is often observed in urban gardens, feeding on its favourite nectaring plants, Lantana and Ixora blooms. In the forests and nature reserves, it regularly appears at the blooms of flowering Jambu trees (Syzygium spp) where it flies at high speeds, stopping only for a fleeting moment to unfurl its proboscis to feed on nectar - all whilst its wings are flapping rapidly.

Males are also often observed to puddle in the company of other Graphiums, Papilios and many species of Pieridae.  Even when puddling, the Tailed Jay is skittish and alert, flying off quickly the moment it senses any danger approaching.  It prefers to puddling on damp sand along streambanks that have been tainted with decomposing organic matter.

Females do not puddle, but are more often encountered at flowers and also in the vicinity of its various caterpillar host plants where they are in the process of ovipositing. In some cases, the butterfly is observed to stop on the upperside of a leaf to sunbathe at certain times of the day, whilst at other times it will stop with its wings folded shut as if to take a rest from its high-energy flight activity.

The complete life history has been recorded by ButterflyCircle on this blog and found here.

Text by Khew SK : Photos by Sunny Chir, Huang CJ, Khew SK, Henry Koh, Koh CH, Loke PF, Bobby Mun, Nelson Ong, Tan BJ, Anthony Wong, Mark Wong & Benjamin Yam.

You have read this article with the title April 2013. You can bookmark this page URL Thanks!