31 July 2014

Butterflies Galore! : Tree Flitter

Butterflies Galore!
The Tree Flitter (Hyarotis adrastus praba)

This moderately rare skipper is forest-dependent and is usually encountered in the nature reserves in Singapore. It is a fast flyer and flies rapidly between flowers when feeding on nectar. It tends to remain at low level, flitting amongst the shrubbery but when alarmed it can take off in a flash to the treetops to get out of harm's way.

The Tree Flitter is dark brown above with hyaline spots on the forewings. On the underside of the hindwing, there is an irregular white discal band from mid-costa to mid-dorsum. The hindwing cilia are chequered. The antennae are white-banded just below the elbow of the apiculus. This individual was photographed by ButterflyCircle member Chng CK in the nature reserves.

30 July 2014

Butterflies Galore! : Psyche

Butterflies Galore!
The Psyche (Leptosia nina malayana)

In Greek mythology, the Psyche is often depicted as a princess who was loved by Cupid. She became the personification of the soul. The word psyche also means the human soul, spirit or mind, from which the medical specialty psychiatry is derived. In the butterfly world, the Psyche is a small white and delicate butterfly that flies gently and restlessly amongst low shrubbery and open areas.

The Psyche is white above, with a black apical area and a large black oblong sub-apical spot on the forewing. The underside is white and features greenish streaks across both wings. This shot was taken by ButterflyCircle member Loke PF at the Butterfly Hill at Pulau Ubin last weekend.

29 July 2014

Butterflies Galore! : Indigo Flash

Butterflies Galore!
The Indigo Flash (Rapala varuna orseis)

The Indigo Flash is a moderately rare species that has a rather wide distribution, turning up in forested areas as well as urban parks and gardens in Singapore. Both sexes of this species feature deep blue or bluish-green uppersides. It is a fast flyer and sometimes flies and hides on the underside of a leaf when disturbed. On hot sunny days, or in the early morning hours, it can be seen sunbathing with its wings opened flat on the top surfaces of foliage.

The male is indigo blue above and unmarked, whilst the female is a steely-blue and similarly unmarked. The underside is dark brown with broad post-discal bands. There is a strong purple wash on the underside of both wings - more prominently in the male than in the female. This female, shot last weekend at Pulau Ubin's Butterfly Hill, appeared to be a newly-eclosed individual and was cooperative for awhile during the early morning hours after a rainstorm.

26 July 2014

Butterfly of the Month - July 2014

Butterfly of the Month - July 2014
The Peacock Pansy (Junonia almana javana)

As we move past the halfway mark of the year 2014, we take a look back at the first half of the year with a some trepidation about the safety of air travel these days. Perhaps statistics still show that one is more likely to be killed in a car accident than on a plane, but whenever a whole plane goes down with most or all of its passengers, the news often carries a greater collective impact and shock.

Even as the mysterious disappearance of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH 370 still remains unsolved, the shooting down of yet another Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777 over Ukrainian airspace shocked the world. This time around, 298 passengers and aircrew perished. As the world was still coming to terms with another Malaysian Airlines plane lost, another plane, an Air Algerie flight carrying about 118 passengers and crew went down in bad weather and crashed over Mali.

As if to round up a week of bad news, Taiwan's TransAsia Airways ATR-72 turboprop aircraft ploughed into a residential area in Penghu killing 48 people. This time around, there were 10 survivors, as the plane was apparently in trouble during bad weather, before the crash. The TransAsia crash was the third worldwide in the space of just eight days, capping a disastrous week for the aviation industry.

We mark a moment of respect and contemplation, as we can never fully comprehend the grief of the surviving relative and families of those who perished in the air crashes. In some cases, entire families were wiped out. As we ponder about the safety of air travel these days, life still goes on. Perhaps the recent three cases were just a coincidence and an aberration in air travel worldwide? No one can say for sure.

Over in the region, as the summer season is in full swing, Singapore is experiencing hotter and drier weather. A short 4-day weekend trip by a small group of ButterflyCircle members across the causeway to Ipoh for a butterfly photography outing also yielded comparatively poor results. Somehow, butterfly activity seems to be rather low in our favourite places with much lower numbers and diversity than our past visits.

This month, we feature a common urban butterfly, the Peacock Pansy (Junonia almana javana). This bright and cheery orange-coloured butterfly is one of four related Pansy species found in Singapore. The Peacock Pansy is widely distributed, but mainly found in urban parks and gardens, and along the sunlit fringes of Singapore's nature reserves.

It is a sunny-weather species, and often found on hot bright days, fluttering amongst the low shrubbery and flowers. It adopts a flap-glide flight characteristic but can be skittish and alert to any movements or approach by a photographer. When feeding on flowers, it can be approached more easily.

The Peacock Pansy can often be observed sunbathing with its wings opened flat to show its bright orange coloured uppersides. When the weather cools down or when there is cloud cover, the butterfly often perches with its wings folded upright, displaying its muted undersides where it can rest amongst the dried foliage with a relatively effective camouflage to avoid predators.

The bright orange upperside of the Peacock Pansy features prominent white-centred ocelli which may have given its English common name "Peacock". Both the fore and hindwings have prominent ocelli with the eyespot on the hindwing larger and resembling an "eye". The underside is much paler and eyespots are smaller and appear more lightly marked.

The life history of the Peacock Pansy has been documented here on the blog, where it has been bred on Ruellia repens a common urban "weed". It is also likely that the caterpillar of the Peacock Pansy is able to feed on other plants as well.

Text by Khew SK : Photos by Sunny Chir, Goh EC, Huang CJ, Koh CH, Khew SK, Loke PF, Bobby Mun, Anthony Wong & Benjamin Yam.

25 July 2014

Butterflies Galore! : Narrow Spark

Butterflies Galore!
The Narrow Spark (Sinthusa nasaka amba)

When it was discovered back in 1995, it was a new record for Singapore. The early authors' checklists did not include this species as extant in Singapore, although it can be found in Malaysia. The Narrow Spark is moderately rare, and is quite local in distribution, often spotted in a few select localities in the forested nature reserves in Singapore. They often lurk in heavily shaded forest, and is skittish.

The underside of the butterfly resembles a Common Tit. However the Narrow Spark is much smaller and possesses a pair of filamentous white tipped tails. The upperside of the male is a deep rich ultramarine blue. This species has been successfully bred on Eurya acuminata and the detailed documentation can be found here.

19 July 2014

Life History of the Cycad Blue

Life History of the Cycad Blue (Chilades pandava pandava)

Butterfly Biodata:
Genus: Chilades Moore, 1881
Species: pandava Horsfield, 1829
Subspecies: pandava Horsfield, 1829
Wingspan of Adult Butterfly: 22-26mm
Caterpillar Local Host Plants: Cycas revoluta (Cycadaceae, common name: Sago Palm), Cycas rumphii (Cycadaceae).

Physical Description of Adult Butterfly:
On the upperside, the male is blue with thin black borders on both wings and it has a black tornal spot on the hindwing. The female is in paler blue with broad borders on the forewing and it has a series of submarginal spots on the hindwing, of which the spot in space 2 is crowned in orange. On the underside, both sexes are pale greyish brown. Both wings have the usual submarginal, marginal and post-discal series of spots and cell-end bars flanked with white. In the hindwing, there is a black spot in the cell, two black spots in space 7, another one just below vein 1a and orange-crowned tornal spots in spaces 1b and 2. There is a white-tipped filamentous tail at vein 2 in the hindwing.

Field Observations:
Cycad Blue is common in Singapore. The adults are usually observed flying in the vicinity of its host plant, the ornamental Sago Palm which can be found in many gardens in commercial, recreational and private residential areas. They are viewed as a pest by gardeners as their presence usually leaves the prized ornamental plants without new growth. The adults visits flowers for nectar and have the habit of sunbathing with open wings in sunny condition.

17 July 2014

Butterflies Galore! : Quaker

Butterflies Galore!
The Quaker (Neopithecops zalmora zalmora)

This small butterfly is usually associated with the shaded understorey of the forested areas in Singapore's nature reserves. Seldom seen in open urban gardens and parks, the Quaker is usually encountered fluttering restlessly amongst the low shrubbery in forested areas. Occasionally, males are encountered puddling with other butterflies on damp streambanks in the forest.

The Quaker has the characteristic large black spot at the costa of underside of the hindwing. The upperside is predominantly brown and unmarked in the male, and sometimes with a white patch on the forewing of the female.