BUTTERFLY OF THE MONTH - JANUARY 2008
The Common Red Flash (Rapala iarbus iarbus)
In the spirit of the Lunar New Year celebrations, bright red is always an auspicious colour to start off the Year of the Rat 2008. Our feature butterfly this month is a small but speedy butterfly - the Common Red Flash.
The red colours of the upperside of the male of this species gives the common name to the butterfly. The wings are red with black margins in the males, whilst the females are a drab coppery brown. The underside is light grey with darker post-discal lines which are white-edged. There is a black tornal spot on the hindwing, which is orange-crowned. The tornal lobe is covered with bluish scaling. Both the males and females have a white-tipped black tail at vein 2 of the hindwings. The species has large jet-black eyes and black-and-white banded legs.
The Common Red Flash is not very rare, and where it occurs, several individuals are often seen together. In the early morning hours and also in the late afternoons on sunny days, the males can be seen frolicking amongst forested areas where they stop to open their wings to sunbathe. During other times of the day, they appear to prefer to stop with their wings folded shut. Feeding time is usually in the mornings where common wildflowers are the favoured nectaring plants.
As with the other species of the Rapala the Common Red Flash is a fast flyer, zipping from perch to perch with blazing speeds (and hence probably the name 'Flash'). The caterpillars of this species are known to feed on young shoots of the Rambutan (Nephelium lappaceum) and the Singapore Rhododendron (Melastoma malabathricum), where it feeds on the ripening seed pods.
The Common Red Flash can be found within the nature reserves in Singapore, as well as on the offshore island of Pulau Ubin, where it is sometimes common in open sunny areas where wildflowers bloom in abundance. They often stop to rest with their wings closed shut on their favourite perches in the undergrowth.
Text by Khew SK ; Photos by Sunny Chir