11 May 2013

Life History of the Painted Jezebel

Life History of the Painted Jezebel (Delias hyparete metarete)

Butterfly Biodata:
Genus: Delias
Hübner, 1819
Species: hyparete Linnaeus, 1758
Subspecies: metarete Butler, 1879
Wingspan of Adult Butterfly: 60-75mm
Caterpillar Local Host Plant: Dendropthoe pentandra (Loranthaceae).

Physical Description of Adult Butterfly:
Above, the wings are white with veins black-dusted towards the outer margins. The female has its veins more heavily black-dusted than the male. Underneath, the wings are white with black-dusted veins. In the hindwing, the basal half is bright yellow and the marginal border is bright orange-red.

A female Painted Jezebel showing us its upperside.

Field Observations of Butterfly Behaviour:
Painted Jezebel is common throughout Singapore with occurrence in multiple habitats in both nature reserves and urbanised areas. This is likely due to its host plant, Dendrophthoe pentandra, being a common mistletoe on many trees in these areas. The adults can be readily seen fluttering tirelessly at tree-top levels during most of the daylight hours. They only descend to take nectar from flowers or to rest in the shaded understorey towards the later part of the day.

Early Stages:
The Painted Jezebel has only one local host plant recorded to date, a common mistletoe (Dendrophthoe pentandra) which can be found on many trees, large and small, in many locations across Singapore. The gregarious caterpillars feed on young leaves of the mistletoe.

Local host plant: Dendropthoe pentandra.

A male in pursuit of a female at a flowering Syzygium plant.

A mating pair of the Painted Jezebel.

Another mating pair of the Painted Jezebel.

The eggs of the Painted Jezebel are laid in a loose cluster on the underside of a leaf of the host plant. Each vase-shaped egg is laid standing at one end or listing to one side with a height of about 1.2-1.3mm. It is pale yellowish with a slightly raised rim surrounding the micropylar sitting atop. The egg turns whitish as it matures.

A female Painted Jezebel ovipositing on a leaf of its local host plant.

A cluster of eggs of the Painted Jezebel.

A close up view of a few eggs of the Painted Jezebel.

The egg takes about 4-5 days to hatch. The caterpillar nibbles away sufficiently large portion of the egg shell to emerge. Each newly hatched has a length of about 2.2mm and has a black head capsule. It has a cylindrical and pale yellow-toned body covered with dorsal, dorso-lateral and lateral rows of fine setae. Each dorsal seta appears to bear a tiny droplet at its distal end.

Newly hatched caterpillars of the Painted Jezebel.

After hatching, the young caterpillars do not bother to devour the rest of the egg shells. They feed on leaf lamina in the vicinity of the oviposition site, resulting in a number of holes on the resident leaf. The body colour turns yellowish green as growth progresses. The growth in this first instar is moderately paced and the body length reaches about 4mm in about 2.5-3 days before the moult to the 2nd instar.

Two view of a 1st instar caterpillar, length 3mm.

A group of 1st instar caterpillars, length 4mm.

Two views of late 1st instar caterpillar, dormant before its moult, length: 3.5mm.

The 2nd instar caterpillar is yellowish brown in body colour. The head capsule is still black as in the 1st instar. There are dorso-lateral and lateral rows of pale yellowish tubercles each of which has a long, fine and whitish seta emanating from it. The dorsal droplet-bearing black setae are still present, but they are now indistinct and dwarfed by the long yellowish dorso-lateral and lateral setae. There is also a small indistinct black anal plate at the posterior end. This instar lasts about 3-4 days with the body length reaching up to 7mm.

A small group of newly moulted 2nd instar caterpillars observed in the field.

Two view of a 2nd instar caterpillar, length: 5mm

The 3rd instar caterpillar resembles the 2nd instar mostly. The seta-bearing tubercles are now in an intense shade of yellow with the setae similarly coloured. The anal plate is larger proportionately and darker in this colour. This instar takes about 3-4 days to complete with body length reaching about 14mm.

Two views of a 3rd instar caterpillar, early in this instar, length: 7mm.

Close-up views showing the droplet-bearing setae on a 3rd instar caterpillar .

A field shot of a group of 3rd instar caterpillars feeding together on the underside of a leaf.

Two views of 3rd instar caterpillar, dormant prior to its moult, length: 12mm.

The appearance of the 4th instar caterpillar is little changed from the 3rd instar. This instar lasts about 3.5-4 days with body length reaching about 22-24mm.

Two views of a 4th instar caterpillar, early in this instar, length: 13.5mm.

Two views of a 4th instar caterpillar, late in this instar, length: 24mm.

The 5th and final instar caterpillar resembles the 4th instar caterpillar closely. The black anal plate is larger in proportion compared to those in the early instars. With the head capsule also black in colour, at times it is hard to "make head or tail" of the caterpillar. The 5th instar lasts for 5-7 days, and the body length reaches up to 36-40mm.

Two views of a 5th instar caterpillar, early in this instar, length: 24mm.

Two views of a 5th instar caterpillar, length: 33mm.

A group of final instar caterpillars foundin the field.

Two views of a 5th instar caterpillar, late in this instar, length: 37mm.

On the last day of the 5th instar, the body of the caterpillar shortens with colour decolorised to golden yellow. The fully grown caterpillar ceases feeding and comes to a halt on the underside of a leaf or a stem/stalk on the host plant. Here the caterpillar spins a silk pad and a silk girdle. With its posterior end secured to the silk pad via anal claspers, and the body suspended at the mid-section with the girdle, the caterpillar soon becomes immobile in this pre-pupatory pose.

A pre-pupatory larva of the Painted Jezebel.

Pupation takes place about 0.5-1 day later. The golden yellow pupa secures itself with the same silk girdle as in the pre-pupal stage, but with the cremaster replacing claspers in attaching the posterior end to the silk pad, The pupa has a short black rostrum at the anterior end, short fin-like to spike-like dorsal processes across most body segments and spike-like lateral black processes in the early abdominal segments. A variable number of black streaks can be found in the wing pad. Length of pupae: 24-25mm..

Two views of a pupa of the Painted Jezebel.

Two views of the mature pupa of a female Painted Jezebel.

The mature pupa of a male Painted Jezebel.

After about 6-7 days of development, the pupal skin turns translucent as the development within the pupal case comes to an end. The following day, the adult butterfly emerges from the pupal case.

A female Painted Jezebel emerges from its pupal case.

A newly eclosed male Painted Jezebel clinging onto its empty pupal case.

  • [C&P4] The Butterflies of The Malay Peninsula, A.S. Corbet and H.M. Pendlebury, 4th Edition, Malayan Nature Society.
  • Butterflies of Thailand, Pisuth Ek-Amnuay, 2nd Edition, 2012
  • A Field Guide to the Butterflies of Singapore, Khew S.K., Ink On Paper Communications, 2010.

Text by Horace Tan, Photos by Tan Choon Peng, Benedict Tay, Eng Chuan Goh, Simon Sng, Bobby Mun, Nelson Ong, Federick Ho, Sunny Chir, Khew S K and Horace Tan.


isaac said...

Wow!! Lovely imagery and good lot of information too !!

Horace said...

Thanks, Isaac for the kind words. :)

Anonymous said...

Dear Dr Tan,

I am an assistant editor of the publishing from Hong Kong. And we are now writing a chapter of life history of butterfly for the primary schools’ students. We would like to ask your permission of using the photos of the life history of the Painted Jezbel. I know you are quite busy, so I would be very grateful if you were able to reply me, and I thank you in advance for your time and consideration!

Please feel free to contact us. My mail is sy.chan@popularworld.com. If you need any additional information, please contact me via email. Thank you so much.

Best regards,
SY Chan

amy hupe said...

hi I am in Thailand and we have many of these butterflies, my daughter and i really enjoyed your clear explanation and it is very helpful to us understand...now we are going to go to our yard and search for the real thing! thank you.

Horace said...

Hi Amy, thanks for the message. I am glad that the blog article is useful to you and your daughter in your encounters with this species in Thailand. :)

..feli.. said...

Hi Horace!
Thanks for the article. What am I supposed to do when I have 3 newly emerged butterflies?
They are now hanging onto wooden chopsticks. When they emerged about 2 hours ago, they can be seen trying to flap their wings. But now they just hang still. Am I supposed to let them be? I will release them eventually, but now it's raining heavily.

Thanks for your help!

Horace said...

Hi Feli,
A few hours after eclosion, the butterflies will typically take flight. If they are kept in a container too long, their wings are usually damaged in the process of flying in the confined space.
Try to release them to a nearby tree, even if it is raining, they will be able to take refuge on the underside of a leaf or a branch.

Unknown said...

Hello sir,
I am resident of Indian state of Karnataka.
Are these butterflies species confined to Singapore only..
I am in a dilemma because I have seen it today while coming home.
I am always in search of the species of animals ,insects, and flowers and other stuff which I capture ..
The stage I saw was a pupa and it was attached to the compound strongly through a white sticky gum or something secreted by itself.. the pupa looked almost same as the one in your picture..and the gum looks same..
I have captured its photo .
I would like to get an answer sir.

Unknown said...

Thank you Dr Tan for the most informative and interesting write-up and video.

I have 16 painted Jezebel caterpillars (st stage 5) on my mistletoe plant. Hope I can witness the whole process of metamorphosis.

Thank you and best regards.

Angeline Ng

Unknown said...

Thank you for the details of this species of butterflies which are found in hatched from my chiku tree. I have kept the caterpillars in a portable plastic fish tank until it turned into pupa stage. Now they have emerged from their cocoon for almost a day and I have released them but I covered them in a big net so I can let children observe them longer. Can I keep them for another day without feeding?