30 September 2023

Butterfly of the Month - September 2023

Butterfly of the Month - September 2023
The Silver Royal (Ancema blanka blanka)

On this last day of September 2023, the Chinese community all around the world herald this year's Mid Autumn Festival (or the month of the moon cakes!). The Hungry Ghost month is over and the "gates of hell close for another year. The month of September belongs to the astrological sign Virgo. For those born between 23 August and 22 September, your zodiac sign is Virgo. We featured Capricorn, Aquarius, Pisces, Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer and Leo in the preceding Butterfly of the Month blogposts and will now move into the next in the series. The 12 zodiac signs are Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius, and Pisces.

Virgo (♍︎) (Ancient Greek: Παρθένος, romanized: Parthénos) (Latin for "virgin" or "maiden") is the sixth astrological sign in the zodiac. The constellation Virgo has many different origins, depending on mythology. Most myths view Virgo as a virgin maiden that carries her associations with wheat. This shows Virgo's deep-rooted presence in the material world. Virgos are said to be logical, practical, and systematic in how they see life. Virgos are often the most successful people in the world.

Silver Royal Female (top) and Male (bottom) feeding at flowering plants

Smart, sophisticated, and kind, Virgo gets the job done without complaining. Virgos are amazing friends, always there to lend a hand and also lend advice. Practical Virgos are incredibly adept at big picture thinking, and planning out their life, their vacations, and what they're going to do today. The Virgoan is the ultimate combination of brains and beauty. They have got great organizational skills, not to mention highly developed characteristics and a dedicated work ethic.

Virgoans are deep thinkers, and can sometimes seem shy at first meeting. A Virgo won't spill secrets right away, and it's important to earn a Virgo's trust. But once you do, that Virgin will be a friend for life. Virgos expect perfection from themselves, and they may project those high standards on the other people in their life. Virgoans love and are inspired by beauty. Intelligent and a lifelong learner, Virgo loves trying new things, reading books, and learning about the world. They'll happily sign up for an adult-education course, and they consider an afternoon in bed with a book pretty much ideal.

Virgo's desire to have everything be perfect can manifest in frustration when things don't live up to those (sometimes unrealistic) expectations. Besides occasionally leading to fights with friends and partners, their obsession with perfection can sometimes stall important decisions in their lives. Learning to go with the flow and accept "good enough" is a constant struggle for them.

A male Silver Royal feeding at the flowers of the Mile-A-Minute weed

Our Butterfly of the Month for September 2023 is the Silver Royal. Up to the 2020's it has been seen only a few times in Singapore - at least twice at the Southern Ridges hill tops. It was a re-discovery in 2005 when it was spotted feeding at the flowers of a Syzygium tree. A fast-flying species, it is usually skittish and probably prefers treetop habitats unless individuals descend to the lower shrubbery to feed or oviposit. However, in recent years, it has been making more regular appearances and appears to be less rare than before.

Silver Royal - Male upperside (top) and Female upperside (bottom)

The male of the Silver Royal is a bright shining blue with broad black forewing borders and darkened veins on both wings. The female is a lighter shade of blue and has rounder wings. The underside is distinctive of males of this species and sports a silvery sheen when light shines at a certain angle on the wings. There are two prominent black tornal spots that are orange-crowned and there are two tails at veins 1b and 2 on the hindwing.

The Silver Royal is skittish and flies rapidly like most members of the Theclinae. It is the only representative of its genus Ancema in Singapore. It has been observed feeding on flowering plants like the Mile-A-Minute, Syzygium and the inflorescence of the Common Ivy Palm (Arthrophyllum diversifolium), often in the company of other Lycaenidae.

Male Silver Royals puddling at muddy footpaths 

Males of the species are also observed puddling at muddy streambanks and footpaths, whilst the rarer females are more often seen in forested areas foraging amongst flowering plants.The life history of the Silver Royal has been successfully documented on the local host plant, the Oval Leafed Mistletoe (Viscum ovalifolium). Coincidentally, this parasitic plant is more abundant amongst the tall trees of the Southern Ridges, especially at Telok Blangah Hill Park.

Text by Khew SK : Photos by Khew SK, Loh MY, Loke PF and Horace Tan