15 December 2012

Butterfly of the Month - December 2012

Butterfly of the Month - December 2012
The Fluffy Tit (Zeltus amasa maximinianus)

This December 2012 is the fifth anniversary of ButterflyCircle's Butterfly of the Month series. We first introduced this monthly series with a Malay Lacewing back in 2007, and with this month's feature butterfly, the Fluffy Tit, we have showcased a total of 62 species (two were featured in Dec 2008) from Singapore's butterfly fauna over a period of 61 months!


December has been a very wet month for the region, with the monsoon rains drenching most afternoons here in Singapore. From the Meterological Station data, it was reported that Singapore received an "above average rainfall over almost all of Singapore... with the highest rainfall of 253 mm to 289 mm (110% to 140% above average) in the western parts of Singapore". Indeed, butterfly watchers and photographers have been experiencing relatively low counts of butterflies as the cooler and wetter weather appears to have reduced the numbers in many parts of the island.

Over in Singapore, an industrial strike by some foreign bus workers dominated the local news for a while.  It has been at least 26 years since such an "adversarial and confrontational industrial relations" last happened in Singapore.  The strike made world news as the Singapore authorities moved swiftly to punish the ringleaders of the strike - an event that is new and unfamiliar to many young Singaporeans.  A taste of things to come, if wage disputes and living conditions of foreign workers continue to be issues that remain unresolved?  

In the US, a 26-year old gunman massacred 20 children and six adults at a school in Connecticut. It is always difficult for many countries in this part of the world to understand why firearms are still relatively easily available in the US. When will we see the end of such tragedies where innocent victims, in this case, young children, are slaughtered for no rhyme or reason?

Despite the tragedies, many Americans continue to oppose restrictions on what they consider to be a constitutional right to keep powerful firearms at home. In Singapore, possession of firearms (with the exception of the army and police) is an offence punishable by death. It is my personal hope that this Singapore law continues to be in force for as long as we want to remain a peaceful and safe country.

December always brings memories of Christmas, cold weather and presents!  It always brings back memories of songs and tunes of significance from my childhood days.  An old favourite is this one by Engelbert Humperdinck called Winter World of Love.

The flower of the month in December is the Narcissus, usually represented by the white and orange-yellow cultivar. The flower has a trumpet shaped corona that is surrounded by a ring of petals. They are also poisonous and can be fatal if eaten so no parts of the flower should be ingested. 

For our December butterfly, we feature a pretty white-and-orange long-tailed Lycaenidae, the Fluffy Tit (Zeltus amasa maximinianus). It is a moderately common butterfly that can be found in Singapore's urban parks and gardens, as well as in the forested nature reserves. It prefers open sunlit spots and forages amongst the vegetation.


Males of the Fluffy Tit have the basal area of the forewing and a large part of the hindwings a pale azure blue on the uppersides. The rest of the wings are black, shot with a deep purple when viewed at certain angles. The female is dull brown above with a whitish tornal area on the hindwings.

The underside is pale bluish white with orange apical areas on both wings.  There are deeper orange streaks on the wings with large and distinctive black spot in space 7 of the hindwing.  The tornal area has black streaks and black spots. The hindwing features two long tails at vein 1b and 2, of which the longer tail is at vein 1b.


The butterfly is quite a sight to behold when it flies with its long white tails trailing elegantly behind. The tails are curly and twisted, often twirling in the breeze and moving, as though independently from the rest of the butterfly. Males of the species are observed to puddle at roadside seepages and sandy banks of forest streams.

The species can sometimes be encountered feeding on flowers in the forests, especially those of the Bandicoot Cherry (Leea indica). Males are also partial to human sweat, and can be observed feeding on sweaty backpacks and sometimes can be attracted to feed on a sweaty finger!

The life history of the Fluffy Tit has been fully recorded on this blog. The caterpillar host plant in Singapore is Clerodendrum laevifolium.

Text by Khew SK : Photos by James Chia, Sunny Chir, Khew SK, Koh CH, Lim WY, Liyana Zolpakar, Loke PF, Jonathan Soong, Horace Tan, Anthony Wong & Benjamin Yam

* This feature article is dedicated to ButterflyCircle member Pung Liphing, who now resides in Kuching, Sarawak, East Malaysia.  She has, for a long long time, spent a lot of effort to hunt this species down to photograph, but somehow, whenever she turns up, the Fluffy Tit always disappears like magic!  So here's to Liphing and a note of encouragement to keep trying.  Somewhere out there, is a Fluffy Tit waiting for you!