30 November 2023

Butterfly of the Month - November 2023

Butterfly of the Month - November 2023
Cowan's Red Flash (Rapala cowani)

A Cowan's Red Flash perched on a Heliconia flower

On this final day of November 2023, it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Malls and commercial buildings have put up their Christmas decorations and playing Chrismas background music, adding to the holiday mood, as people from all over the world plan their year-end vacations and travels. The month of November belongs to the astrological sign Scorpio. For those born between 23 October to 21 November, you are a Libran. We featured Capricorn, Aquarius, Pisces, Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo and Virgo 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.

Scorpio (♏︎) (Ancient Greek: Σκορπιός, romanized: Skorpiós, Latin for "scorpion") is the eighth astrological sign in the zodiac, originating from the constellation of Scorpius. According to Greek mythology, its representation as a scorpion is related to the Greek legend of Orion and how a scorpion stung him to death. Those born under this sign are dead serious in their mission to learn about others. There's no fluff or chatter for Scorpios, either; these folks will zero-in on the essential questions, gleaning the secrets that lie within.

A female Cowan's Red Flash (top) and male (bottom)

The primary Scorpio strengths can be found in their devoted, determined, and keen observant nature. They are hard workers, often artistic, and deeply committed to study and research. You can count on the Scorpion to see whatever they have committed to, through to the logical conclusion. Because of all of these traits, a Scorpio can seem intimidating and somewhat aloof to those who don't know them well.

Scorpio is always able to say exactly what's on their mind, even if it's not what people want to hear. Scorpio is forthright and honest, and those two characteristics commandeer a ton of respect, both at home and at work. All behind the scenes or after-hours work are well suited to Scorpio, making them naturals at investigative work. These natives will be drawn to being private investigators, detectives, and even secret service or espionage agents.

Those born under the sign of the Scorpion are receptive and patient, but they can be suspicious and slow to trust. Others may be forthcoming about their vulnerabilities, but if Scorpios are feeling insecure, they can use what others have revealed to be emotionally manipulative and controlling. Like the other fixed signs, they can be slow to forgive, and those that cross the Scorpion may feel their vengeful sting.

Our Butterfly of the Month for November 2023 does not possess any stings or barbs that can maim or hurt. But it is elusive and rare. The Cowan's Red Flash was first described by AR Corbet in 1939. After its discovery in 1938 at the mouth of Sungei Jurong, no sightings have been reported for several decades on the mainland. Its recent sightings are confined to mangrove areas in Pulau Ubin and Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, in the vicinity of its larval host plant. The adults are fast flyers and take rapid flights among foliage at the water edge.

Although it was reinstated to the Singapore checklist only in 2022 after being positively validated with recent photos taken at Sg Buloh Wetland Reserve. This elusive species was earlier recorded from Pulau Ubin as far back as 2006, but misidentified as Hypolyceana erylus which it superficially resembles. However, recent sightings at Sg Buloh Wetland Reserve and again on Pulau Ubin confirmed its existence in Singapore.

Upperside of a female Cowan's Red Flash

On the upperside, the male is bright orange-red with very broad dark brown borders on both wings and resembles a large Scarlet Flash (Rapala dieneces dienices). The female is yellowish brown with a cupreous discal patch on the forewing and sometimes with a cupreous subtornal patch on the hindwing. As with other Rapala spp., the male has on its hindwing a prominent oval-shaped brand at the base of space 7, and a secondary brand at the base of vein 6.

On the underside, the markings on both forewing and hindwing are typical in most Rapala spp., featuring a cell-end bar, a black post-discal band and indistinct submarginal fascia. The male is pale greyish brown while the female is pale greyish. On the hindwing, an orange-crowned black marginal spot is present in space 2 and on the tornal lobe. Between the two spots, the marginal area in space 1b is covered with pale bluish silvery scales. There is a white-tipped black tail at the end of vein 2.

The Cowan's Red Flash has a strong and erratic flight and alert and rather skittish. Males generally fly at tree top levels, sometimes basking in the sunshine with opened wings. Females tend to lurk more in the shade of the shrubbery in back-mangrove vegetation or looking for ideal sites to oviposit. The species has been successfully bred in Singapore on Xylocarpus granatum (Meliaceae) - Mangrove Cannonball Tree which is a mangrove-dependent species.

Text by Khew SK : Photos by Chan WC, Khew SK, Loh MY, Sebastian Ow, Horace Tan and Angela Yeo