25 March 2017

Butterfly of the Month - March 2017

Butterfly of the Month - March 2017
The White Banded Awl (Hasora taminatus malayana)

March seemed to have come and (almost) gone in a flash. This is the last Saturday of the month, and I almost forgot to showcase our feature butterfly for this month on the blog! March seemed like a short month, after all the Lunar New Year festivities and holidays in February came to an end, and everyone settled back to work.

For homeowners who still hold outstanding loans, the US Fed hike in March caused a bit of concern for these SIBOR-linked borrowers. With two more impending rate hikes under the Trump administration in the coming quarters, the days of low-interest loans may be numbered. It will be interesting to see how the global economy changes in these turbulent times. A friend recently shared that business is booming back in the US, and she was swamped with work piling up for the months to come.

A White Banded Awl feeding on the flower of Ixora (top) and puddling on damp concrete (bottom)

This month, I tried the GrabCar app for the first time - ironically, back in my hometown in Penang where I was visiting my parents. This transportation platform, like the more ubiquitous Uber, is one of the disruptive technologies that has radically changed the face of public transportation. I must say that my maiden experience with Grab was largely positive and hassle-free. I merely clicked on the app, set my destination, and the designated car details and driver were sent to me.

Other than a small hitch where the driver missed my pickup location (and I could see on my smartphone tracking his car, that he went off to an adjacent road), the car arrived in about 10 minutes flat from the time I clicked 'confirm booking' on my smartphone. The driver was a Malaysian Indian who was in between jobs. He was polite and very knowledgeable about current affairs and recent news in Malaysia and Penang. All in all, the ride was pleasant and I reached my destination in good time. The best thing was that Grab's fixed fare was only 55% of what a normal taxi would have cost!

Back home in Singapore, I took possession of my new "toy" - a DJI Mavic Pro.  This new high-tech drone (or some prefer to call it 'flying camera') is pretty awesome technology. My first impression of this Chinese-designed-and-manufactured drone was that the finish and quality of the product exceeded all expectations. The amount of technology in the hardware and software is mind-boggling and I am still discovering new things about the drone.

Unfortunately, Singapore is a small island and the number of no-fly-zones and regulatory requirements limit the number of places that one can legally fly the drone. Hopefully, some of these regulations can be relaxed a bit so that responsible recreational drone pilots can help to document Singapore in a totally different perspective and for a variety of useful applications from urban planning to building inspections.

This month, we feature a pretty skipper, the White Banded Awl (Hasora taminatus malayana). This species belongs to the subfamily Coeliadinae of the family Hesperiidae. The subfamily features a number of robust, fast-flying, fat-bodied butterflies commonly referred to as the Awls or Awlets. Many of the species are crepuscular, often seen on the wing in the early hours of the morning and late in the evenings just before dusk.

A typical pose of the White Banded Awl, playing hide-and-seek from under the shelter of a leaf

The White Banded Awl is a forest-dependent species, usually found in the nature reserves in well-shaded localities. It has a habit of flying rapidly and is often observed to settle on the underside of a leaf with its wings folded upright. Once disturbed, it takes off at high speed to search for another hiding place to rest on the underside of a leaf again.

A pristine White Banded Awl puddling on damp concrete

The species is also known to puddle on bird droppings and sometimes found puddling on damp building structures (concrete or wood) in the early morning hours. Occasionally, it is also found feeding off sap on damp tree trunks with its long and distinctive proboscis. When certain forest trees flower, e.g. Syzygium spp. the White Banded Awl may be seen zipping rapidly amongst the flowers and stopping to feed on the nectar.

The male White Banded Awl is dark velvety brown above and unmarked, whilst the female has small pale yellow post-discal spots on the forewings. The underside is pale brown with the wing bases strongly suffused with iridescent bluish-green scales. There is a narrow but distinct white post-discal band on the hindwing. In a side light, the bluish sheen makes it an attractive looking skipper and distinctively different from the majority of brown and sombre looking butterflies in the family.

The White Banded Awl's 'baby photo'

The caterpillar of the White Banded Awl feeds on Derris trifoliata (Sea Derris), a host plant that it shares with at least two other species of butterflies in Singapore.

Text by Khew SK : Photos by Sunny Chir, Khew SK, Koh CH, Loke PF, Nelson Ong, Jonathan Soong and Horace Tan

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