31 December 2023

Butterfly of the Month - December 2023

Butterfly of the Month - December 2023
The Dark Flat (Tapena thwaitesi bornea)

A female Dark Flat feeds on Bidens alba flower at a forest edge

December 2023 is almost over, and we count down to a new year ahead! Christmas has come and gone, as we reflect on what we have achieved over the past year and make resolutions and set targets for the new year. The month of December belongs to the astrological sign Sagittarius. For those born between 23 November to 21 December, you are a Sagittarian. 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.

A male Dark Flat puddling at a damp footpath

Sagittarius (♐︎) (Greek: Τοξότης, romanized: Toxótēs, Latin for "archer") is the ninth astrological sign, which is associated with the half human and half horse, Centaur of mythology - the learned healer whose higher intelligence forms a bridge between Earth and Heaven. Also known as the Archer, Sagittarius is represented by the symbol of a bow and arrow. As an archer, Sagittarius never fails in hitting the mark and this depiction alludes to the power of prophecy, hence, the claim that seers and prophets are born in this sign.

Underside of a puddling male Dark Flat

The primary strength of Sagittarians is their optimism. Being born with a bold, jovial disposition, Sagittarians usually find it easy to feel happy, enthusiastic, and to see the bright side of life. Being influenced by Jupiter's affirming and confident nature, Sagittarians rarely succumb to self-doubt and are usually able to propel themselves forward in life, believing that everything will work out for the best.

Personal integrity is very important to Sagittarians, and they will have a difficult time accepting a situation which puts them in situations they feel to be false or inauthentic roles, ideas, or laws. Sagittarians are very unlikely to be possessive or materialistic since their lives prioritize being able to change, move, and adapt easily. Though they can be non-committal, they are also rarely jealous, extending the same freedoms to others who would also love to enjoy themselves.

Sagittarians will passionately state their points of view or principles in the moment, yet reserve the right to always change their mind, stating just as passionately their amended views later on. This can be disorienting for others who were sure they knew a Sagittarian's position on a matter, giving them a reputation for being fickle, or at times unreliable. Due to their adventurous spirit, and love of change and travel, Sagittarians are famously non-committal when it comes to plans, as they also reserve the right to change their agendas with their moods.

Female (top) and male (bottom) Dark Flats

The final Butterfly of the Month for 2023 is the moderately rare skipper, The Dark Flat (Tapena thwaitesi bornea). It belongs to the subfamily Pyrginae from the family Hesperiidae, referred collectively as "Flats", where the adult skippers are usually observed with their wings spread opened flat. It was a new discovery for Singapore when first recorded in the 1990's as it was not on the early authors' checklists for Singapore. It is the sole representative of its genus Tapena in the region.

Though moderately rare, it makes its appearance regularly in the forested areas of Singapore, and is widely distributed across the island. It is usually skittish and a fast-flyer but is able to be photographed when perching on the tops of leaves to sunbathe, or puddling on bird droppings and other organic matter on the forest floor.

Underside of a female Dark Flat

The Dark Flat is a dark brown on the upperside with obscure dark blotchy patches on both wings. On the forewing, there are usually two or three small hyaline subapical spots in the male. The female sports a few larger hyaline spots at the cell end on both wings and is usually larger in size. The species has been successfully bred in Singapore on the host plant Dalbergia rostrata (Leguminosae).

Text by Khew SK : Photos by Federick Ho, Khew SK, Henry Koh, Lee YT, Loke PF, Sebastian Ow, Zick Soh, Anthony Wong and Mark Wong