07 November 2009

Life History of the Large Four-Line Blue

Life History of the Large Four-Line Blue (Nacaduba pactolus odon)

Butterfly Biodata:
Genus: Nacaduba Moore, 1881
Species: pactolus C. Felder, 1860
odon Fruhstorfer, 1916
Wingspan of Adult Butterfly: 32mm
Caterpillar Local Host Plants:
Entada spiralis (Fabaceae)

A Large Four-Line Blue perching on a small branch in the nature reserve.

Physical Description of Adult Butterfly:
The Large Four-Line Blue belongs to the pavana sub-group (the Four-Line Blues) in the genus Nacaduba, thus it possesses the shared characteristics of lacking a basal pair of lines in the underside forewing cell. Above, the male is purplish blue with marginal black borders of about 1.0mm thick. The female is pale blue with distal portions almost whitish, and has broad black borders of about 3-4mm thick. Beneath, both sexes are greyish brown with a slight silky lustre and with the space between the post-discal straie being unicolourous and of the ground colour. The underside stripes are broader and more diffuse than the other members, with the exception of N. angusta, of the pavana sub-group. On each hindwing, there is an mid-sized orange-crowned tornal spot lightly speckled with bluish-green metalic scaling. Both sexes have a filamentous white-tipped tail at the end of vein 2 of the hindwing.

The upperside of a female Large Four-Line Blue.

Field Observations of Butterfly Behaviour:
Although there were a mere handful of sightings of individuals during one survey and 2-3 outings in the past few years, the re-discovery of this species was only recently nailed with an ID confirmation provided by Prof Konrad Fiedler. This species is uncommon in Singapore but adults have been sighted in multiple locations such as the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, Southern Ridges, western wasteland and an offshore island. The adult has an erratic but rapid flight, and typically makes its appearance in sunny weather. Encounters usually take place in sunlit spots with the adult sunbathing or flitting from perch to perch in the vicinity of its host plant.

Early Stages:
The only known local host plant, Entada spiralis, is a woody climber with bipinnate leaves, usually with 4 pairs in a pinna. This tree-topping vine can be found in the Central Catchment Nature Reserve and Southern Ridges. The early instars of the Large Four-Line Blue feed on soft tissues of the host plant such as young leaves, young stems, tendrils, and flower buds. Across its range of distribution, N. pactolus has been found to use only one plant genus (Entada) as larval host, thus it is a stenoligophagous species.

Young shoots of Entada spiralis.

Oviposition by Large Four-Line Blue females. Left: on the underside of a young leaf. Right: on flower buds.

A mother Large Four-Line Blue laying an egg on a young shoot of E. spiralis.

Eggs are laid on young shoots, flower buds and young leaves (underside) of the host plant. Each egg is pale yellowish green, circular and has a depressed micropylar area. The surface is criss-crossed with a network of ridges. Each egg has a diameter of about 0.4mm.

Two eggs of the Large Four-Line Blue. Diameter: 0.4-0.5mm.

It takes about 2 days for the egg to hatch. The young caterpillar consumes part of the egg shell to emerge. With a length of about 0.7-0.8mm, it has a pale yellowish green body with long setae (hairs) occurring dorsally and sub-spiracularly. The caterpillar assumes the typical woodlouse body shape as it grows. Both the diamond-shaped pro-thoracic shield and the anal plate are pale green.

1st instar caterpillar, early in this stage, length: 1mm.

The first instar lasts for 2 days and the body length reaches about 1.5mm before the moult to the 2nd instar. The long dorsal setae are absent in the 2nd instar caterpillar. The body is yellowish green and has coarser texture on its surface. The dorsum of the thorax is slightly depressed. The 2nd instar also lasts for 2 days and the caterpillar grows to a length of about 3.5mm.

2nd instar caterpillars, length: 2mm.

The 3rd instar caterpillar is still yellowish green but with a stronger emphasis in green. Faint markings in much paler yellow appear on both sides of the dorsal line. The body is also densely covered with short brown or transparent setae. Both dorsal nectary organ and tentacular organs are not unmarked and are barely distinguishable. The prothoracic shield is white with a slight greenish tinge.

3rd instar caterpillars, late in this stage, length: 6.5-7mm

After 3 days in the 3rd instar with the body length reaching a maximum about 7-8mm, the caterpillar moults to its final instar. The 4th instar caterpillar initially resembles the 3rd instar caterpillar closely. As the body grows larger in size, its colour assumes a much darker shade of green.

Two views of a 4th instar caterpillar, length: 13mm.

4th instar caterpillar. Left: Prothoracic shield; Right: Dorsal nectary organ (DNO) and
tentacular organs (TO).

The 4th instar lasts for 4 days and the body grows up to a length of about 13-14mm. On the last day of this stage, the caterpillar ceases food intake and its body shrinks in length. Once a pupation site is selected, the pre-pupatory caterpillar prepares for pupation by spinning silk threads to form a silk pad on the substrate. It then stations itself with a silk girdle across its thorax and with its rear end attached to the silk pad.

Two views of a pre-pupa of the Large Four-Line Blue

The next day, after 11-12 days of larval growth, pupation finally takes place. The pupa has the typical lycaenid shape, and is covered with short brown setae. Ground colour is pale brown, and mottled with dark brown spots of various sizes and shapes. Length of pupae: 9-10mm.

Two views of a fresh pupa of the Large Four-Line Blue

Five days later, the maturing pupa becomes increasingly darkened in the head, thorax and the wing pads. The blue patches on the forewing upperside are now noticeable through the pupal skin. The next day the adult butterfly emerges from the mature pupa.

Two views of a mature female pupa showing the markings on the forewing upperside in the wing pad.

A newly eclosed Large Four-Line Blue resting on its pupal case

  • The Butterflies of The Malay Peninsula, A.S. Corbet and H.M. Pendlebury, 4th Edition, Malayan Nature Society.
  • Butterflies of Thailand, Pisuth Ek-Amnuay, 1st Edition, 2006
  • Notes on Host Association and Immature Biology of Nacaduba pactolus hainani, Y-F Hsu et al, BioFormosa, 34 (2), 2004, pp.61-65.
Text by Horace Tan, Photos by Sunny Chir and Horace Tan


xxyyzz said...

Very nice work again Horace. I have yet to shoot this guy, maybe I should emerge from 'retirement'. :)

Commander said...

Thanks for being a regular reader and commenter at our Blog, Henry. Yes, you should definitely emerge from your retirement. The butts are waiting for you. ;)

Horace said...

Thanks, Henry. :)
As Khew said it, you should definitely start your butt-shooting hobby again. We all enjoy your high-quality butterfly pics posted at the BC forum, and many of these are also selected for appearance in blog articles here.

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Horace said...

Many thanks, Chitchat for your kind words. :)

BTW, a very interesting blog you have too.

Unknown said...


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Horace said...

Thanks, hs5spl. :)
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