17 February 2018

Butterfly of the Month - February 2018

Butterfly of the Month - February 2018
The Green Baron (Euthalia adonia pinwilli)

A male Green Baron feeding on the ripened fruit of the Singapore Rhododendron

We cross into the Chinese Zodiac sign of the Year of the (Earth) Dog as Chinese communities all around the world celebrate the Lunar New Year on 16 February. The dog is the 11th animal out of the 12 selected animals that made it to the Jade Emperor's Great Race. The most defining characteristic of someone born in the year of the dog is their loyalty. They will never abandon their friends, family or work. Honest and just, they are popular in social circles. They are also good at helping others find and fix their bad habits.

Some geomancers predict that 2018 is going to be a tumultuous year for global events. A few predictions even pointed to some serious natural disasters in parts of the world. Then again, soothsayer predictions have always been here to stay, and to each his own whether to believe and take action to avoid 'bad luck' or to just ignore any form of fortune-telling, and live life to the fullest.

In the US, another senseless shooting took the lives of 17 innocent people at the Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida. The shooter, a former student who had been expelled for bad behaviour carried an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle with multiple magazines and was probably intent on taking lives when he went on his shooting spree that morning. As long as the US lawmakers remain adamant about "doing the right thing" as far as guns are concerned, such incidents will happen over and over again.

Over here in Singapore, we can only be thankful that the government has made the possession of firearms illegal and that such shooting incidents are highly unlikely to be caused by a civilian who has relatively easy access to assault rifles. It is hoped that governments of countries with strict gun control laws will continue to impose such laws so that what happened (and will continue to happen in the US), can be avoided in our respective homelands.

As the Chinese New Year celebrations continue for the next 15 days, Singaporeans wait with bated breaths for the announcement of the 2018 Budget. Rumours are rife that taxes, particularly the goods and services tax, will be raised. This usually translates into a higher cost of living as the GST affects practically every aspect of our daily life. Coincidentally, someone once said 'nothing is certain but death and taxes'.

A female Green Baron feeding on the flowers of the Javanese Ixora

Whilst looking for a species that features some auspicious red colour befitting of the Chinese New Year season, I selected one with some attractive red accents in its wings. Hence we feature the Green Baron (Euthalia adonia pinwilli) as February 2018's Butterfly of the Month. The attractive red spots, particularly on the underside of the wings of the male, gives the Green Baron a distinctive look.

A newly-eclosed male Green Baron clinging onto its pupal case

The Green Baron is a medium sized butterfly with an average wingspan of 55-65 mm. It is moderately common and regularly observed in urban parks and gardens, although it frequents the forested nature reserves as well. The main reason why the Green Baron is widely distributed, is because it caterpillar host plant, the parasitic plant, Malayan Mistletoe (Dendrophthoe pentandra),  can be found growing quite commonly on many other plants in urban parks and gardens.

The butterfly has a robust body like other species of the Euthalia genus (or collectively known by their common English name of "Barons").  Both the male and female of this species are strong flyers and skittish. They will fly rapidly away from any intrusion into their territory and head high up to the treetops, out of reach of any predators.

Male Green Barons feeding on Singapore Rhododendron fruit and Javanese Ixora flower

The male Green Baron is dark green on the upperside with a lighter green tornal area of the hindwing. The forewing has prominent white subapical spots and post-discal spots. The underside features the same subapical and post-discal spots but has a number of crimson spots at the cell area of the forewing and across the hindwing.

Female Green Barons feeding on Singapore Rhododendron fruit and Javanese Ixora flower

The female Green Baron has a broad white band across both wings with the veins blackened prominently. The tornal area of the hindwing on the upperside is an iridescent green with large black marginal spots and crimson spots on the tornal and apical area. The underside features large red cell spots on the forewing but fewer spots compared to the male.

Both the male and female are regularly observed to feed on rotting fruits. They like the ripened fruits of the Singapore Rhododendron (Melastoma malabathricum), although they have been seen on other types of flowering plants like Ixora and Lantana. They are extremely skittish if they are not feeding and difficult to approach without scaring them off.

The Green Baron has been successfully bred on the parasitic plant, Malayan Mistletoe (Dendrophthoe pentandra), a host plant that it shares with the Painted Jezebel, Peacock Royal and Great Imperial.

We would like to take this opportunity to wish all our Chinese readers a Happy and Prosperous Lunar New Year!


Text by Khew SK : Photos by Foo JL, Federick Ho, Huang CJ, Khew SK, Koh CH, Nelson Ong, Tan BJ and Horace Tan.