27 November 2012

Random Gallery - The Harlequin

Random Butterfly Gallery
The Harlequin (Taxila haquinus haquinus)

Here is another shot of a female Harlequin (Taxila haquinus haquinus) taken by ButterflyCircle member CK Chng a couple of weekends ago. This species is in critical danger of disappearing from the Singapore Butterfly fauna, as the solitary known site where a small colony of the Harlequins can be found with regularity is slated for development. ButterflyCircle had earlier attempted a translocation effort, but was unable to replicate all the ideal conditions for the species' continued survival. Hence the days for this pretty butterfly's existence in Singapore may be numbered.

Ironical though it may seem, the site where the last remaining Harlequin colony is found is earmarked for a development "focusing on hosting an environmentally friendly industry, the complex is being developed with an eye towards environmentally responsible practices, with "green" buildings and maintenance of natural terrain".

24 November 2012

Life History of the Common Disc Oakblue

Life History of the Common Disc Oakblue (Arhopala epimuta epiala)

Butterfly Biodata:
Arhopala Biosduval 1832
Species: epimuta Moore 1858
apiala Corbet 1941
Wingspan of Adult Butterfly: 40-42mm
Caterpillar Local Host Plants:
Vatica pauciflora (Dipterocarpaceae), Vatica rassak (Dipterocarpaceae), Vatica maingayi (Dipterocarpaceae).

A female Common Disc Oakblue resting on a leaf perch between oviposition runs.

Physical Description of Adult Butterfly:
Above, the male is deep shinning blue with a thread-line dark border on both wings, and on the forewing there is a broad circular discal patch; the female is shinning blue with very broad dark borders on both wings. Below, the wings are brown bearing brown spots outlined with whitish to yellowish brown striae. On the forewing, the post-discal spot in space 4 is shifted towards the termen and not aligned with spots in spaces 5 and 6. On the tailless hindiwng, (a) the post-discal spot in space 6 is placed mid-way between the spot in space 5 and the end-cell bar, with its inner edge aligned with the outer edge of spot in space 7; (b) there is a very short tooth at end of vein 2; (c) bluish scales are present in the margin of space 1b and upper end of space 1a, and (d) a small tuff of white cilia is present just below the end of vein 1b.

21 November 2012

Random Gallery - Common Palm Dart

Random Butterfly Gallery
The Common Palm Dart (Telicota colon stinga)

The Palm Darts - genus Telicota are moderately sized skippers with black and orange wings.  They are fast-flying and zip around rapidly amongst open grassy areas on hot sunny days.  Many of the species stop to sunbathe in the usual skipper fashion, with the hindwings opened flat, whilst the forewings are held opened at a 45deg angle to the body.  At other times, they perch proudly, almost on tip-toe, with their wings folded shut upright.

This shot showing a Common Palm Dart perched elegantly on a curved grass blade was taken by ButterflyCircle member Lemon Tea recently at an open wasteland in the eastern part of Singapore. The classic sharp and well-composed shot with a pleasing smooth green background makes for an excellently executed shot of this relatively common skipper.

19 November 2012

Random Gallery - Banded LineBlue

Random Butterfly Gallery
The Banded LineBlue (Prosotas lutea sivoka)

ISO800 1/200s F/8 , Fill-flashed , Handheld

A much-needed outing for ButterflyCircle member Sunny Chir on Sunday yielded a very nice shot of the Banded LineBlue.  This species was a recent discovery in Singapore and first found in the Bukit Brown cemetery area.  It remains a mystery why the Banded Line Blue has not been observed here in Singapore after so many years.

Sunny's shot is an example of a well-executed photograph in butterfly photography in many aspects :
  • A clean and creamy background that is well-lit
  • A flowering perch with yellow flowers that complement the rather drab butterfly
  • A well-composed shot using the rule of thirds (vertically and horizontally) on both the perch and the main subject
  • A butterfly that is feeding (note proboscis extended into the flower) and not just sitting there doing nothing
  • Sharply focused subject throughout
  • Well-balanced and pleasing lighting with good contrast between the subject and its background that allows the butterfly to stand out prominently in the photo

17 November 2012

Butterfly of the Month - November 2012

Butterfly of the Month - November 2012
The Sumatran Sunbeam (Curetis saronis sumatrana)

The month of November 2012 has certainly been an eventful one for global politics.  Two of the world's largest economies - China and the United States of America saw leadership 'adjustments'. In the case of the USA, the results of the elections put President Barack Obama back into the White House for a second four-year term in office. It would appear that many of the Asian economies prefer President Obama for his more open foreign policy.

On the other side of the globe, the world's most populous nation, China, saw the changing of the guard at its 18th Congress when President Hu Jintao relinquished his key posts to pave the way for the General-Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party Xi Jinping to take over the post of President in March 2013.

Back at home, the Singapore Parliament has just adjourned after another session of active debate over issues like the death penalty, casino (or gambling) control and a number of other less contentious Bills. The scandal of the NUS law scholar and his girlfriend's exhibitionist escapades on their blog took centrestage on social media for quite a few days this month. It does leave one wondering how the power of social media and the internet, and how the world communicates today, literally at the speed of light, will affect us in the years to come.

Back to nature. The flower of the month of November traditionally belongs to the Chrysanthemum. This flowering plant belongs to the family Asteraceae which are native to Asia and Eastern Europe. The Chrysanthemum can grow between 50-150cm tall, has deep leaves and large flower heads with dozens of petals. The Chrysanthemum is most commonly found in shades of white, pink, red and yellow. Yellow or white chrysanthemum flowers of the species C. morifolium are boiled to make a sweet drink in some parts of Asia. The resulting beverage is known simply as "chrysanthemum tea" (菊花茶, pinyin : júhuā chá).

Our feature butterfly of the month is the Sumatran Sunbeam (Curetis saronis sumatrana). This species belongs to the sub-family Curetinae of the family Lycaenidae. The Curetis spp., collectively referred to by their English name "Sunbeams" are fast-flying butterflies featuring usually bright orange-red or light orange uppersides in most of the species.

Two female Sumatran Sunbeams feeding on juices of the Noni fruit (Morinda citrifolia)

Only two Curetis species are reliably recorded from Singapore in the past few decades : the Malayan Sunbeam and the Sumatran Sunbeam. The latter species, our butterfly of the month, is often found in mangrove habitats where its host plant, Derris trifoliata grows in abundance. They can be seasonally common, where more than a dozen individuals may be spotted in a single outing.

Females are more often seen than males, probably because of their presence in the vicinity of their host plants, whilst males are more likely found at the tree tops. The butterfly is a strong flyer, skittish and has a habit of hiding on the underside of a leaf with its wings folded upright when disturbed. At other times, the species is fond of sunbathing with its wings partially opened, showing off its orange and black uppersides in sunlit spots along open paths in the mangrove habitats.

The male of the Sumatran Sunbeam has more angular wings and orange-red uppersides with narrower borders

The much rarer male of the Sumatran Sunbeam has a bright orange-red upperside with a narrow black border. The wings are more angular when compared to the females. The female has more rounded wings and the upperside is paler orange with broad black-dusted borders on the fore and hindwings. The undersides are silvery-white with lunulate post discal striae. The legs are red-banded.

The slug-like caterpillars feed on the host plant Derris trifoliata, a common creeper often found in mangroves and back-mangroves. This creeper is also a host plant of the Hesperiidae, the Common Awl (Hasora badra badra). The life history of the Sumatran Sunbeam has been documented in full on this blog.

Text by Khew SK : Photos by Sunny Chir, Chng CK, Federick Ho, Khew SK, Loke PF & Horace Tan.

15 November 2012

Random Gallery - Bigg's Brownie

Random Butterfly Gallery
Bigg's Brownie (Miletus biggsii biggsii)

The Bigg's Brownie is a relatively common species in Singapore.  It is most often seen fluttering restlessly in well-shaded areas at the fringes of the nature reserves as well as in various urban parks.  The species is associated with mealy bugs, aphids and coccids, on which their caterpillars feed.  The adult butterflies are observed flying around ant-infested young shoots of various plants.  The ants "farm" the mealy bugs for their sugary discharge, and do not seem to attack the intruding butterflies.

The species is light brown on the upperside, with an oblique white band on the forewings, which can vary across different individuals.  The underside is light greyish brown with dark markings outlined in white.  This individual was shot by ButterflyCircle member Koh Cher Hern recently. 

09 November 2012

Life History of the Leopard Lacewing

Life History of the Leopard Lacewing (Cethosia cyane)

Butterfly Biodata:
Genus: Cethosia Fabricius, 1807
Species: cyane Drury, 1773
Wingspan of Adult Butterfly: 80mm
Caterpillar Local Host Plants: Passiflora foetida (Passifloraceae), Adenia macrophylla var. singaporeana (Passifloraceae)

A female Leopard Lacewing visiting the flower of Bidens alba.

A female Leopard Lacewing.

A female Leopard Lacewing showing its uppersidevisiting Lantana flowers.

Physical Description of Adult Butterfly:
Above, the male is orange with apical two-thirds of the forewing black with a white and oblique band lying within. The termen of both forewing and hindwing  is indented and lined with a broad and black marginal area containing a lace-like pattern of white markings. The female is mostly similar but with the orange background replaced with a  pale yellowish to whitish coloration, and has its hindwing endowed with more discal and postdiscal black spots.    Underneath, the wings are variegated with orange, red, white, black and blue. In the forewing, the cell area is transversed with bars of black, bluish-white and  red coloration, beyond which a broad, white and oblique band lies just below the subapical area. In the hindwing, the ground colour is orange in the male and pale creamy yellow in the female. The basal area and the costal margin are crossed by short black lines, with the ground colour more reddish in the male. A somewhat broad discal band and a narrow post-discal band, both white, are  bordered with  black spots and striae.  As in the upperside, the terminal margins are black and house lace-like white markings, with additional short white straie pointing from the margin inwards to the tip of the V-shaped markings. 

03 November 2012

Another New Discovery makes it #305!

Another New Discovery makes it #305!
The Yellow Flat (Mooreana trichoneura trichoneura)

The year 2012 must be a particularly lucky one for ButterflyCircle member Federick Ho. Of the four new species observed by ButterflyCircle members this year, Federick contributed a hat-trick (i.e. 3 hits) to the Singapore Checklist! Spotting new and unrecorded species of butterflies out in the field is a combination of being out at the right time of the day, a pair of sharp eyes, and a matter of being at the right place at the right time, and Federick is doing exactly that so far !

All the four new additions to the Singapore Checklist this year were considered new discoveries, as all four species were not recorded by the early authors in their respective checklists [Ref 1 & 2]. These species are therefore considered new to the Singapore butterfly fauna and it is quite consistent with some of the discoveries from the past years during this period of the north-easterly winds. One theory is that the NE monsoon winds may have carried some species southwards to Singapore from across the Causeway. Of course, some of these new finds could already have existed in the less-explored forested areas of Singapore, just waiting for someone to spot them.

This morning, a quartet of ButterflyCircle members - Federick Ho, Loke PF, Simon Sng and newbie Huang CJ, were out on their usual weekend butterfly shooting hunt when Federick spotted something that he hadn't seen before in Singapore. He signalled for the rest of the team to hurry to his location, whilst taking shots of his new find.

As it turned out, this attractive Hesperiidae from the sub-family Pyrginae (or commonly referred to as the "Flats") known as the Yellow Flat (Mooreana trichoneura trichoneura) has been seen for the first time in Singapore.  This skipper has not been recorded in Singapore before, and is thus a new discovery. ButterflyCircle records it as species #305 in the Singapore Checklist.

The Yellow Flat is described as a forest-dependent species found in lowland jungles up to 2,500ft. In the males, both the mid- and hind-tibiae feature a hair tuft. Its distribution is relatively wide, stretching from India to Thailand and Malaysia and all the way to the Philippines. The upperside is dark brown with a number of hyaline spots on the forewings.  The hindwing has a series of wedge-shaped discal spots and the tornal area is prominently yellow.  On the underside, the colours are more muted, appearing as a pale yellowish white.

Males and females are similar in appearance. The butterfly has a habit similar to many other members of the sub-family and flies swiftly, often perched on the underside of a leaf with its wings spread open flat. The butterfly is described as "rare on the forested plains in Malaya"

Was the species extant in Singapore all this time? Or is it a newcomer "foreign talent" that had just migrated into the forests of Singapore? This rather pristine individual spotted this morning suggests that the species was not one that had travelled far as it showed relatively little wear and tear on its wings. Whatever its origins, we welcome another new species to our sunny little island. And we hope that Federick's lucky streak will continue!

Text by Khew SK : Photos by Federick Ho, Huang CJ, Loke PF & Simon Sng


  1. The Butterflies of The Malay Peninsula, A.S. Corbet and H.M. Pendlebury, 4th Edition, Malayan Nature Society. 1991
  2. Butterflies of West Malaysia and Singapore, WA Fleming, 2nd Edition, Longmans, 1983
  3. Butterflies of Thailand, Pisuth Ek-Amnuay, 2nd Edition, Amarin Printing & Publishing, 2012.

01 November 2012

Random Gallery - Apefly

Random Butterfly Gallery
The Apefly (Spalgis epius epius)

This diminutive butterfly, the Apefly (Spalgis epius epius) belongs to the family Miletinae, collectively referred to as the 'Harvesters'. The caterpillars of the butterfiles of this family are typically carnivourous and feed on coccids, mealy bugs, aphids and even ant larvae. The Apefly is brown and usually unmarked on the upperside, whilst the underside is a greyish buff covered with striations

This Apefly resting on some young leaves, was photographed last weekend by ButterflyCircle member Loke PF at an urban hill park.  The rounded forewings indicate that this is a female of the species, where males typically have sharper wings, particularly a more angled apex on the forewings.