30 April 2013

Random Gallery - Grey Sailor

Random Butterfly Gallery
The Grey Sailor (Neptis leucoporos cresina)

The Grey Sailor is predominantly a forest-dependent butterfly and is not frequently seen in urban parks and gardens. It tends to stay at forest edges and within the vicinity of forested areas and particularly where its caterpillar host plant, Gironniera nervosa is found. The typical black-and-white striped uppersides tend to get this species confused with two other lookalike species - the Common Sailor and Short-Banded Sailor. The underside of the Grey Sailor is white and grey, and serves to distinguish this species from the other two, which feature orange or orange-brown undersides.

This pristine individual of the Grey Sailor was shot last weekend by ButterflyCircle member Goh EC along the forest edge near a park connector. The species is fairly common and can be quite skittish and uncooperative when a photographer approaches it. A good time to catch it distracted is when it is feeding on the ripened fruits of the Singapore Rhododendron (Melastoma malabathricum) or at flowering bushes.

27 April 2013

Life History of the Plain Banded Awl

Life History of the Plain Banded Awl (Hasora vitta vitta)

Butterfly Biodata:
Genus: Hasora Moore, 1881
Species: vitta Butler, 1870
Subspecies: vitta Butler, 1870
Wingspan of Adult Butterfly: 40-45mm
Caterpillar Local Host Plant: Spatholobus ferrugineus (Family: Fabaceae)

A Plain Banded Awl perching on the underside of a leaf.

A Plain Banded Awl visiting a flower of the Singapore Rhododendron.

A Plain Banded Awl taking nectar from an Ixora flower.

Physical Description of Adult Butterfly:
Adults are rather large in size with pointed forewing apex and markedly lobate hindwings. Above, the wings are dark brown. Both sexes have one small hyaline subapical spot in the forewing, with the female having two larger hyaline spots in spaces 2 and 3 in addition. There are no cell spots, and the male does not have a discal stigma on the forewing. Below, both sexes are pale brown with a purplish sheen in fresh specimens. The hindwing has a prominent white and outwardly diffuse discal band. The inner half of the hindwing has a greenish glaze, more so in the male than in the female.

Field Observations of Butterfly Behaviour:
This species is moderately rare in Singapore. The adults have been sighted in both nature reserves and urban parks and gardens, typically during the dawn and dusk hours of a day. They have the habit of visiting flowering plants for nectar and puddling on damp patches for minerals. As with other Awl spp., the fast flying adults have a habit of resting on the underside of a leaf or other plant parts.

26 April 2013

Random Gallery - Malayan Lascar

Random Butterfly Gallery 
The Malayan Lascar (Lasippa tiga siaka)

The Malayan Lascar is one of four lookalike species found in Singapore, and probably the commonest of the four. The typical black and orange striped appearance and similar sized species - two from the genus Lasippa and the other two from the genus Pantoporia make these lookalike species challenging to identify when in flight. Only when they stop to sunbathe or rest can the identification be made more confidently. The Malayan Lascar can be separated from its lookalike cousin, the Burmese Lascar by the sub-marginal spot in space 3 of the forewing above, which is about twice the size of the adjacent spots in space 2 and 4.

This pristine Malayan Lascar was shot at a patch of secondary forest near Bukit Batok in Singapore. The species has a weak flap-glide behaviour and is fond on settling on the upperside of a leaf with its wings opened flat. However, like its other cousins, it is a very alert butterfly and unless it is feeding and distracted, is hard to approach. Once startled it makes its way to the treetops quite quickly and out of reach of the frustrated photographer.

25 April 2013

Random Gallery - Common Mormon

Random Butterfly Gallery
The Common Mormon (Papilio polytes romulus)

The Common Mormon is a relatively common butterfly in Singapore. This swallowtail is found in urban parks and gardens, although it is fairly often seen in forested areas as well. Its caterpillars feed on the cultivated Murraya koenigii or Indian Curry Leaf, as well as another wild grown species of the same genus.  Other Citrus plants are also known host plants. The upperside of the Common Mormon is predominantly black with a series of whitish spots running across the hindwing forming a band. The female is polymorphic with the form-polytes mimicking the Common Rose, presumably for protection against predators.

Males of the species are often encountered puddling on damp sandy streambanks which have been tainted with decomposing organic matter. When puddling, the forewings of the butterfly flap rapidly, whilst the hindwings are held still.  This shot of a puddling Common Mormon was taken at a park connector near a nature area by ButterflyCircle member Huang CJ, who managed a sharp shot of the Common Mormon whilst achieving a smooth green background which contrasts pleasantly with the black wings of the butterfly.

24 April 2013

Random Gallery - Hieroglyphic Flat

Random Butterfly Gallery
The Hieroglyphic Flat (Odina hieroglyphica ortina)

This pretty black-and-orange skipper is moderately rare, but is widespread in distribution across Singapore where it can be found regularly in urban parks and gardens as well as in the forested nature reserves.  At certain times of the day, it zips around rapidly, sometimes in dogfights with another individual of the same species.  It has a habit of flying and then hiding on the underside of a leaf with its wings opened flat.  The caterpillar of this butterfly feeds on Erycibe tomentosa and its life history has been recorded here.

This Hieroglyphic Flat was shot by ButterflyCircle member Nelson Ong last weekend after the skipper had its fill of the nectar from a flowering Syzygium tree.  At times, the skipper can be found feeding on bird droppings on the forest floor or on leaves.  It will return time and again to its food source even when disturbed.

23 April 2013

Random Gallery - White Spotted Palmer

Random Butterfly Gallery
The White Spotted Palmer (Eetion elia)

This medium sized skipper is moderately rare in Singapore, appearing more often in the forested nature reserves.  It is often found lurking in shaded heavily forested areas, resting on the top surfaces of leaves.  When there is a flowering tree, particularly of the Syzygium spp, the White Spotted Palmer can be seen zipping rapidly amongst the flowers and feeding greedily.

The skipper is dark brown above with white hyaline spots. In the male, the white dorsal area on the hindwing is less extensive than in the female.  The whitened basal half of the underside of the hindwing is distinctive in this species and it is quite easily identified without much doubt.  The abdomen is white banded above and entirely white beneath.  The life history of this butterfly has been recorded here. This shot of a pristine White Spotted Palmer was taken by ButterflyCircle member Loke PF at a flowering Syzygium tree last weekend.

20 April 2013

Butterfly of the Month - April 2013

Butterfly of the Month - April 2013
The Tailed Jay (Graphium agamemnon agamemnon)

This month's Butterfly of the Month, the Tailed Jay, has the honour of bearing the name of the mythical Greek King, Agamemnon as its Latin name.  In Greek mythology, Agamemnon was the king of Troy. When Helen, the wife of Menelaus, was abducted by Paris of Troy, Agamemnon commanded the united Greek armed forces in the ensuing Trojan War, and created the famous legend of the Trojan Horse. It would be interesting to know how this attractive butterfly came to be named after a mythical Greek king.

The Boston Marathon is the oldest annual city marathon in the world, appearing for the first time in 1897. Starting with only 18 runners in 1897, the Boston Marathon ranks as one of the most prestigious running events in the world, reaching a total of 35,000 runners in 1996.  This year, 2013, the Boston Marathon was held on Patriot's Day, 15 Apr 2013.

No one was prepared for the cruel twist of fate on that day when two explosions, planted by obviously mentally disturbed men, went off near the finishing line of the run, costing three innocent lives and injuring 183 others. Several of the victims had their legs blown off by the explosion. Indeed, we live in violent times, where terrorism, whether religiously-motivated or domestic, wreaks havoc on our lives.

Nearer close to home, election fever has gripped our closest neighbours up north, where Malaysia braces itself for its 13th General Elections on 5 May 2013.  As Malaysians of all races and walks of life look forward in anticipation towards the results of the elections, social media is abuzz with talk of impending "change" in the Malaysian government. Will that happen on 5 May? Stay tuned to the results of who will be returned to power.  Being Singapore's nearest neighbour, the political climate in Malaysia will certainly have an impact on our city state, whether we like it or not.  Hence the importance of the elections results to Singapore.

Over here in Singapore, the potential dengue fever epidemic can still happen, as more and more cases have been detected.  As of yesterday, there were more cases reported and the numbers appear to be climbing. As many of us would know, dengue fever is an illness caused by infection with a virus transmitted via the bite of the Aedes mosquito. There are four types of this virus (serotypes 1 to 4) which can infect you. The Aedes mosquito is an "urban" dweller that is more often found in our residential estates than in the forests.  Whenever a dengue fever outbreak is reported, the amount of pesticides that are sprayed into the environment rises significantly.  Whilst protecting human lives is paramount, the onset of a dengue fever outbreak also spells doom for our beloved butterflies in the urban environment as these pesticide fogging can only target all insects and unfortunately destroy them without any exception.

Back to our Butterfly of the Month, the Tailed Jay. This "swallowtail" butterfly is an erratic swift flyer that is widespread in distribution across the island of Singapore. Due to its caterpillars' ability to feed on the cultivated fruits Custard Apple and Soursop, and also the roadside trees, Magnolia champaca (White Chempaka) and Polyalthia longifolia (False Ashoka Tree), the butterfly can be found in urban gardens as well as in the forested nature reserves.

The upperside of the Tailed Jay comprises emerald green spots on a black background. The hindwing has a short tail, which is longer in the female.  On the underside, the purple-brown background has the same green spotting and additional dark purple patches and red spots.

With a wingspan of up to 75mm from wingtip to wingtip, it is the largest representative of its genus in Singapore.  It is often observed in urban gardens, feeding on its favourite nectaring plants, Lantana and Ixora blooms. In the forests and nature reserves, it regularly appears at the blooms of flowering Jambu trees (Syzygium spp) where it flies at high speeds, stopping only for a fleeting moment to unfurl its proboscis to feed on nectar - all whilst its wings are flapping rapidly.

Males are also often observed to puddle in the company of other Graphiums, Papilios and many species of Pieridae.  Even when puddling, the Tailed Jay is skittish and alert, flying off quickly the moment it senses any danger approaching.  It prefers to puddling on damp sand along streambanks that have been tainted with decomposing organic matter.

Females do not puddle, but are more often encountered at flowers and also in the vicinity of its various caterpillar host plants where they are in the process of ovipositing. In some cases, the butterfly is observed to stop on the upperside of a leaf to sunbathe at certain times of the day, whilst at other times it will stop with its wings folded shut as if to take a rest from its high-energy flight activity.

The complete life history has been recorded by ButterflyCircle on this blog and found here.

Text by Khew SK : Photos by Sunny Chir, Huang CJ, Khew SK, Henry Koh, Koh CH, Loke PF, Bobby Mun, Nelson Ong, Tan BJ, Anthony Wong, Mark Wong & Benjamin Yam.

18 April 2013

Random Gallery - Colour Sergeant

Random Butterfly Gallery
The Colour Sergeant (Athyma nefte subrata)

The genus Athyma is represented by five species in Singapore. The Colour Sergeant is the most common of the five. It is widely distributed, and can be found in the nature reserves as well as urban parks and gardens. The caterpillar host plants, at least 3 Glochidion spp., can be found cultivated in parks or growing wild in the nature reserves. The female occurs in two forms - f-neftina and f-subrata.

The male, shown here, is territorial and returns to its favourite perch to observe its surroundings and chase intruders away. It features the typical black-and-white striped patterns like all the members of the genus. The upperside of the male is black with bluish-tinged white markings. This individual, shot in the nature reserves, has a rather prominent orange apical spot on the forewings above (Inset). The typical male Colour Sergeant has white apical spots instead of orange, although the orange-spotted "form" occurs with regularity in Singapore.

17 April 2013

Random Gallery - Yellow Flash

Random Butterfly Gallery
The Yellow Flash (Rapala domitia domitia)

The Yellow Flash often lives up to its name whenever it is encountered in the field. It is a zippy little butterfly that flashes very quickly away and is gone in the blink of an eye if it chooses to be uncooperative. As with many other species, the odds of getting a better shot of it will improve when it is distracted whilst feeding. It is the most elusive of all the Flashes (Rapala) species currently known in Singapore.

This skittish individual was shot by ButterflyCircle member Sunny Chir after it was feeding happily on the flowers of a blooming Syzygium tree in the nature reserves. The distinctive yellow undersides and jet black markings on the forewings make this the most easily identifiable Rapala amongst the many lookalikes in the genus.

14 April 2013

Life History of the Courtesan

Life History of the Courtesan (Euripus nyctelius euploeoides )

Butterfly Biodata:
Genus: Euripus Doubleday, 1848
Species: nyctelius
Doubleday, 1845
Subspecies: euploeoides
C & R Felder,1867
Wingspan of Adult Butterfly: 50-70mm
Caterpillar Local Host Plants: Trema tomentosa (Ulmaceae, common name: Rough Trema, Poison Peach), Trema cannabina (Ulmaceae, common name: Lesser Trema).

A male Courtesan perching on a branch of a Trema plant.

A male Courtesan resting at a leaf perch.

A sunbathing male Courtesan giving a view of its upperside.

Physical Description of Adult Butterfly:
The eyes of both sexes are yellow but those of the female are darker with varying degrees of brown shading. The male has the termen of its hindwing indented between veins 2 and 4, and between veins 5 and 6. Above, the male is bluish black with its forewing endowed with a complex series of white spots/patches in the cell, discal and post-discal areas. The hindwing is predominantly white with blackened veins, marginal and submarginal series of small white spots. Of the two female forms (-isina, -euploeoides) present in Singapore, form -isina (a mimic of the male Magpie Crow (Euploea radmanthus)) has its wings bluish black with a large post-cellular white patch on the forewing and a broad white area in the inner basal half of the hindwing. Faint marginal series of whitish spots are present in both wings while a post-discal series of faint white spots is present in the hindwing. Form -euploeoides (a mimic of the female Magpie Crow) has its wings brown in colour. In the forewing, the post-cellular white patch is rather broad and an additional white patch is present in the cell. In the hindwing, the whitish area occupies almost two-thirds of the wing. The marginal, submarginal and post-discal series of white spots are larger and more distinct than those found in form -isina. Underneath, the wings are brown for both sexes with similar white markings as per the upperside.

A female form -isina Courtesan on a leaf perch.

The upperside view of a female form -isina Courtesan.

Another female form -isina Courtesan.

Field Observations of Butterfly Behaviour:
Courtesan is rare in Singapore. The adults have been found in various parts of nature reserves, as well as Southern Ridges and even the Singapore Botanic Gardens. They are typically found in an area where its host plants are thriving. The male has a strong flap-glide flight pattern while the female mimics the slow and unhurried flight pattern of its model.

A female form -euploeoides Courtesan taking nectar from flowers of mile-a-minute.

The upperside view of a female form -euploeoides Courtesan.

A female form -euploeoides Courtesan on a leaf perch.

12 April 2013

Random Gallery - Leopard Lacewing

Random Butterfly Gallery
The Leopard Lacewing (Cethosia cyane)

The Leopard Lacewing is a recent migrant to Singapore and was first discovered some time in late 2005. It had earlier been recorded in Malaysia on Pulau Langkawi in late 1999 and early 2000. How it first appeared in Malaysia and eventually Singapore, is anyone's guess. As an easy-to-breed species, with its caterpillars feeding on a variety of Passifloraceae species, it is versatile enough to adapt to several host plants to survive. Also, a female of this species can often lay up to 50-100 or more eggs in its lifespan, aiding in its spread across any area that it has managed to colonise.

This shot shows the upperside of a female Leopard Lacewing. The characteristic pale creamy colour of the wings easily sets it apart from the other Cethosia species found in Singapore. Males tend to outnumber females in this species, even in a controlled breeding facility. The species displays aposematic colouration and is known to be distasteful to predators.

08 April 2013

Random Gallery - Grass Demon

Random Butterfly Gallery
The Grass Demon (Udaspes folus)

The Grass Demon is dark brown above, with the forewing featuring several white spots. The hindwing has a large white discal patch, giving the butterfly a chequered appearance as it flits low amongst grasses and shrubbery. It can be a fast flyer, but often stops to rest with its wings in the typical Hesperiidae fashion. The caterpillars of this species feed on Turmeric.

This Grass Demon was shot by ButterflyCircle member Chng CK last weekend. The butterfly with its forewings opened at an angle and the hindwings opened flat is perching on a blade of lalang. The interesting angle at which it was shot makes it appear like a lady with a flared skirt looking down from a balcony.

06 April 2013

ButterflyCircle : BBQ Time! @ Oh Farms

ButterflyCircle : BBQ Time! @ Oh Farms

The ButterflyCircle gang!

It was a dark and stormy night.... Well, the weather was not quite conducive on that Good Friday evening, 29 Mar 2013 for an alfresco barbecue party. But first. let's rewind the clock to some time late last year when we were talking about having a long-overdue gathering for ButterflyCircle members. Since the group was formed, we had a 'grand' number of only two big gatherings, both barbecues, at member Henry Koh's condominium in Aug 2008 and then a more recent one at Oh Farms when it was first set up. So it was about time we had another gathering soon.  Federick Ho suggested Good Friday as it was a public holiday and a long weekend.

Rain stopped, time for some action and food!  The BBQ pit at Oh Farms all ready for its maiden barbecue function

Preparations began and thanks to the super-efficient folks at Oh Farms, most of the yummy food was prepared and all the rest of us needed to bring were light snacks, drinks and not to forget beer, and our insatiable appetites! All in all, we had 22 members, the Oh Family and a few other guests making up a nice group of over 30 people who attended the barbecue.

Whilst some members chipped in to help set up the tables and food, others were too hungry to resist the yummy dinner! 

So who has the chubbiest cheeks??

It was ButterflyCircle's biggest social gathering so far - young and not-so-young, newbies and veterans, guys and gals. A few members, who were out of action for some time, also made the effort to join in.  After a morning butterfly shooting outing for some of the regulars, everyone was looking forward to the barbecue, when the skies decided to unleash its fury around late afternoon. It was a fierce tropical thunderstorm, complete with thunder and lightning.

Makan time!!  And our chef-du-excellence, Nancy, who kept the food coming along

Those of us who arrived early at Oh Farms were entertained in an nice airconditioned room and waited anxiously for the rain to stop. Whilst there was a wet-weather contingency plan, having a barbecue indoors won't be quite the same. Fortunately, at around 6:30pm, the skies cleared up to a nice cool and humid evening.

A small sample of the delicious food we were treated to that evening

Looking around the happy faces amongst the ButterflyCircle members that evening brought my mind back to late 2005, when the group was facing internal differences amongst some of the founding members. Eventually, a few of the more troublesome members were purged and the remaining group, which formed the majority of the members, split off to start a new group. I also recall that some time in Nov 2005, we had an online brainstorming session amongst the pioneer group members to find a new name for the group.

Uncle Sunny telling us the story of how he got that rare butt

On 17 Nov 2005, it was decided that the group be called ButterflyCircle. A domain was registered and after the requisite administrative applications were cleared, we were good to go! Originally, most of the members started off as macro photographers with a special interest in butterflies. Many were also members of a local photography forum, Clubsnap, who eventually joined ButterflyCircle and focused their efforts on butterfly photography and learning more about our winged jewels.

ButterflyCircle's youth wing members, CJ and Lemon

Over the years, the group grew in numbers as new people joined the forums, outings and social gatherings. We even had overseas members joining in the forums, and experts in specialised fields like early stages, identification and so on. Special mention has to be made of Dr TL Seow from Malaysia, who has been exceptionally invaluable for his knowledge in butterfly identification and sharing his experience with ButterflyCircle members. From our closest neighbours in Malaysia and Thailand we also have active members like Antonio Giudici, Les Day and LC Goh, with whom the Singapore members have often met up on outings in Malaysia and Thailand, and even further afield in other Asian countries.

Lady butts from ButterflyCircle

Then there are members from US, Hong Kong, India, Japan and other countries who pop in regularly to discuss topics related to butterflies. Of special mention are Keith Wolfe and William Folsom from the US, and David Fischer from Australia, who have contributed their time, knowledge and encouragement from time to time. Our 'sister' group, the Hong Kong Lepidopterists Society, visited us in June 2011 and they have reciprocated the hospitality to several ButterflyCircle members who visited Hong Kong.

Veteran members trying to 'poison' a newbie member

In the seven years that ButterflyCircle has been in existence, the group has continued to further its research in butterflies, and sharing information across the globe via its forum, blog and Facebook portals. The group also learned a lot of new things from others via this information exchange.

What's a BBQ without a Tiger??  CHEERS! And young Brian thinking how long he has to wait before he can drink beer legally

In terms of butterfly photography, there are very few groups or individuals who can match the excellent photographic achievements of the members of ButterflyCircle. The work of ButterflyCircle members never ceases to amaze laymen enthusiasts and experts alike - from discoveries to early stages to butterfly photography. Many of the results of the hard work and efforts have been captured in this blog since its maiden post in August 2007. The sustainability of this blog over the past five years has been through the efforts of Horace Tan (with his amazing work on early stages of butterflies) and the generous contributions of photographs from ButterflyCircle members.

The Old Boys' Club.  Those born later than 1960 need not apply

Coming back to the barbecue, it was excellent food (thanks, Yeok Keong, Ai Ling, Nancy and the rest of the Oh clan), great company and a most enjoyable evening for everyone. I believe most of us had more than our typical dinner as Ai Ling played a fantastic host and fed us continuously with her gastronimic delights. Thanks also go to Eng Chuan, Chng and others who brought the beer and drinks, Steven Neo for the wine, and CJ who brought some nice satay all the way from a famous stall in Clementi!

The Hungry One, looking forward to the next ButterflyCircle BBQ party!

As for the rest of us, we probably ate enough to burn off the calories of the next two days' outings over the long Easter weekend!  It was a great evening of warm camaraderie, catching up with old friends, making new ones and all with the common interest of butterflies! Thanks to everyone who turned up to make the occasion a success, and we look forward to the next ButterflyCircle social gathering, and we hope that it will be soon!

Text by Khew SK : Photos by Khew SK & Tan KY