Genus: Megisba Moore, 1881
Species: malaya Horsfield, 1828
Sub-species: sikkima Moore, 1884
Wingspan of Adult Butterfly: 21mm
Caterpillar Local Host Plants: Mallotus paniculatus (Euphorbiaceae, common name: Turn-In-The-Wind)
Physical Description of Adult Butterfly:
The Malayans are small butterflies. Above, both sexes are dark brown with a white discal patch which is more prominent in the female. The underside is white to dull grey. The forewing has a series of costal spots, one spot in the cell, a cell-end bar, a postdiscal curved series of transverse spots or short bars from costa to dorsum, a submarginal series of broader transverse spots and a thin anticiliary line. The hindwing has three spots near base in transverse order, a large prominent black spot near the apex, a cell-end bar, a broken postdiscal series of faint spots, and as in the forewing, a submarginal series of broad transverse spots and a thin anticiliary line. A pair of short tails is found at end of vein 2 in the hindwing. Elsewhere in the region these tails might be absent in some races, but the species found in Singapore has consistently been found to possess the tails.
One Malayan perching on a leaf in the nature reserve.
Another Malayan on another perch.
Field Observations of Butterfly Behaviour:
The Malayan was not recorded as being extant in Singapore by early researchers, and it was only discovered recently in surveys conducted during '90s. A casual look would easily have one mistaken it for the Common Hedge Blue (Acytolepis puspa lambi). The two species can be separated by checking the color of the upperside and the presence/absence of costal spots on the forewing underside. The adults of the Malayan have a weak erratic flight and can be found both the nature reserves and the Southern Ridges in wooded areas, particularly in the vicinity of its local host plant. The males have been observed to puddle on damp patches, animal dung and bird droppings.
Clusters of flower buds of Mallotus paniculatus.
Eggs of Malayan are laid singly at a flower bud, rachies or pedicel near the flower buds. The egg is small (about 0.4-0.5mm in diameter) and light green in colour, circular with a slightly depressed micropylar area and a reticulated pattern of intersecting ridges.
A mother butterfly laying her eggs at a cluster of flower buds of Mallotus paniculatus.
An egg of the Malayan laid among the flower buds, diameter: 0.4mm-0.5mm.
A newly hatched caterpillar of the Malayan, length: 0.8mm
With the egg laid amongst or near the flower buds, the newly hatched has no problem finding its food supply. It works its way through the tomentous surface of the flower buds and bore into it for the goodies within. As it feeds and grows, it gradually takes on a pale brown base color with series of small pale yellow patches running sub-dorsally and spiracularly.
Two 1st instar caterpillars feeding on flower buds, length: 1.2mm
After about 3-4 days of growth and reaching a length of about 2mm, the caterpillar moults to the next instar. The 2nd instar caterpillar resembles the late 1st instar caterpillar in body color and markings, but the setae are now much shorter in proportion.
Two 2nd instar caterpillar, early in this stage, length: 1.8mm
2nd instar caterpillar, length: 2.5mm
The 2nd instar caterpillar reaches a length of about 4mm, and after about 4 days in this stage, it moults again. The 3rd instar caterpillar has proportionately shorter but still numerous body hairs. The sub-dorsal pale whitish patches run from the 2nd thoracic segment to the 6th abdominal segment, larger on the first twto segments. The dorsal nectary organ (on the 7th abdominal segment) is ringed in dark brown markings. This instar takes 3-4 days to complete with the body length reaching about 5.5-6mm.
3rd instar caterpillar, length: 4mm
The 4th (and final) instar caterpillar is more striking in general appearance as there are prominent white patches interleaved with smaller pale brown to green patches. There are numerous tiny "asterick"-shaped specks, of white, brown and green coloration, sited at the base of setae. These structures could serve as mechano-receptors or might be glandular in nature. At a larger scale, the typical lycaenid nectary organs (both the dorsal nectary organ on the 7th abdominal segment and tentacular organs on the 8th abdominal segment) are now easily spotted.
4th instar caterpillar, length: 7mm
4th instar caterpillar, length: 9.5mm
Left: Dorsal nectary organ (DNO) and tentacular organs (TOs) on posterior segments;
Right: Prothoracic shield and anterior segments
Two views of a pre-pupa of the Malayan.
Pupation takes place after one day of the pre-pupal stage. The pupa has the typical lycaenid shape. It is pale yellowish brown with a hint of pink. The surface is covered with a layer of short fine hair, and decorated with a few brown and black specks. Each pupa has a length of about 6.5-7.5mm.
Two views of a fresh pupa of the Malayan.
Five days later, the pupa becomes darkened in color signaling the imminent emergence of the adult. The next day the adult butterfly emerges from the mature pupa to begin the next phase of its life cycle.
Two views of a mature pupa of the Malayan.
A newly eclosed Malayan.
Another newly eclosed Malayan
- The Butterflies of The Malay Peninsula, A.S. Corbet and H.M. Pendlebury, 4th Edition, Malayan Nature Society.
Text by Horace Tan, Photos by Sunny Chir, James Chia and Horace Tan