31 January 2009

Two More Lycaenids Make it 287!

Two More Lycaenids Make it 287!
Re-discovery of Metallic Caerulean (Jamides alecto ageladas) & White Four-Line Blue (Nacaduba angusta kerriana)

Over the course of last year, in 2008, the hardworking ButterflyCircle members continue to make observations of several butterfly species which have yet to be recorded in the Singapore Butterfly Checklist. A few are still under scrutiny and verification by experts from Malaysia and overseas, and will be announced when their identities are validated in due course.

In the meantime, ButterflyCircle is proud to announce the re-discovery of two species of Lycaenids which make them species #286 and #287 for the Singapore Checklist. These two species were originally recorded in the early authors' checklists for Malaysia and Singapore, but in recent years, these species were not observed.

The Metallic Caerulean (Jamides alecto ageladas)

A Metallic Caerulean feeds on the flower of Leea rubra.

Back in 2008, one of them, the Metallic Caerulean (Jamides alecto ageladas) was observed in numbers at a location towards the northern central part of Singapore. The species was photographed even earlier, but dismissed as the more abundant Common Caerulean (Jamides celeno aelianus). However, after closer scrutiny, the white striations on the hindwing of this species differs from the Common Caerulean. Subsequent sightings of the species was recorded and observations were also made of a female of the species ovipositing on the flowers of the Torch Ginger (Nicolaia elatior), a plant which was not known to be a host plant of the Common Caerulean.

A female Metallic Caerulean ovipositing on the flower of its host plant, Torch Ginger

Further careful observations were made, as well as documentation of a mating pair of the species. References were carefully checked and consultation made with a foreign expert in Lycaenidae confirmed that the species was indeed the Metallic Caerulean (Jamides alecto ageladas).


A male Metallic Caerulean puddles on bird droppings.

The Metallic Caerulean, described as the largest species in the elpis subgroup, which is characterised by the post-discal band on the forewing beneath is completely dislocated at vein 3. The male of the species has a black diffuse border on the forewing, expanding to about 1mm at the apex and a series of black marginal spots on the hindwing . In the female, the forewing border extends narrowly along the costa to the base. Also rather unique in this species, is the tornal bands of the hindwing beneath which are interconnected rather than dislocated when compared with the Common Caerulean.



The Metallic Caerulean has bright metallic blue uppersides, and grey ground colour on the undersides with the usual white banding. On the hindwing, there is a black centred orange-crowned eyespot at the tornal area, with some additional submarginal orange markings along veins 1b and 4. There is a white-tipped filamentous tail at vein 2 of the hindwing. The species has banded legs and antennae, and the eyes are a solid jet black. It has a rather quick erratic flight, and for most of the day, is active and flies amidst low vegetation and stays close to its host plant, the Torch Ginger. Males tend to stay higher up and chase each other in the bright sunshine. Very often both sexes stop to rest in the shade on the uppersides of leaves and demonstrates the movement of the hindwings and tails in the usual Lycaenid fashion.




The White Fourline Blue (Nacaduba angusta kerriana)

The 2nd re-discovered species is more characteristic in its physical appearance, and has more distinctive markings with which the species is easily identifiable without much doubt. This species, the White FourLine Blue (Nacaduba angusta kerriana) was first spotted towards the end of the year 2008, at an urban park in the Southern Ridges of Singapore. Whilst on a routine weekend outing with some of the regulare members, Sunny Chir stumbled upon a mating pair of the species, where he immediately recognised as something new that he had not seen before.



Upon closer scrutiny, it was discovered that, indeed, this species of the Nacaduba has not been recorded in the Singapore Checklist before. The female of the species is so distinct in that a view of the upperside would put the identity of the species beyond any doubt. A member of the pavana group (characterised by the lack of a pair of subbasal lines in the cell of the forewing beneath) of the genus Nacaduba, the White FourLine Blue has a prominent rounded black sub-marginal spot in space 6 of the hindwing.


A newly-eclosed White Fourline Blue perched on its pupal shell

A follow up by ButterflyCircle early stages specialist, Horace Tan, discovered the caterpillars of the White FourLine Blue feeding on the host plant, Entada spiralis and successfully recorded the Early Stages of this newly re-discovered species. The Life History will be documented and featured in a future Blog article.



The male White FourLine Blue is purplish blue above with a thin black border, which is about 1mm broad towards the apex. The hindwing is unmarked but with a thin submarginal black border. The hindwing cilia is white. The female has broad black border on the forewing and has a light blue ground colour with diffuse greyish markings on both wings. The underside is greyish, with broad whitish-grey bands and dark grey spaces in between. There is an orange-crowned black spot at the tornal area of the hindwing beneath, with some light bluish-green metallic scaling. There is a filamentous white-tipped tail at vein 2 of the hindwing.



The White Fourline Blue has an erratic but rather weak flight, and prefers to stay under shade, fluttering amongst thick vegetation along the forest edge. Males tend to stay higher up in the forest canopy, and descend lower to find a mate, or to feed.



With these two re-discoveries, the Singapore Butterfly Checklist now has 287 species recorded. ButterflyCircle, with its bigger number of enthusiasts who are keenly photographing and learning about butterflies, their habitats, early stages, conservation and ecology, it is without doubt that more species will be added to the checklist in the near future.

Text by Khew SK : Photos by Horace Tan, Sunny Chir, Henry Koh, Bobby Mun, Anthony Wong & Khew SK

References:
  • The Butterflies of The Malay Peninsula, A.S. Corbet and H.M. Pendlebury, 4th Edition (1992), Malayan Nature Society.
  • Butterflies of Thailand, Ek-Amnuay, Pisuth, English Edition (2006), Amarin Publishing and Printing Public Co Ltd

24 January 2009

Life History of the Common Bluebottle

Life History of the Common Bluebottle (Graphium sarpedon luctatius)



Butterfly Biodata:
Genus: Graphium Scopoli, 1777
Species: sarpedon
Linnaeus, 1758
Subspecies: luctatius
Fruhstorfer , 1907
Wingspan of Adult Butterfly: 90mm
Local Caterpillar Host Plants: Cinnamomum iners (Lauraceae, common name: Wild Cinnamon), Cinnamomum camphora (Lauraceae, common name: Camphor Tree), Lindera lucida (Lauraceae), Neolitsea zeylanica (Lauraceae).


Physical Description of Adult Butterfly:
The Common Bluebottle has a macular band which runs from the apex of the forewing to the inner margin of the hindwing on both the upper and underside. This band varies from pale green through various hues of bluish-green to deep blue. The hindwing has a series of blue submarginal spots on the upperside, and additional red spotting on the underside of the hindwing. There is a red spot near the base of the hindwing on the underside as well.


A Common Bluebottle puddling in the nature reserves


Group puddling of Common Bluebottle adults


Another puddling Common Bluebottle in an open-wing pose

Field Observations of Butterfly Behaviour: The adults fly with a fast, agile flight typically at tree-top level. The males of this species can often be found feeding on roadside seepages or urine-tainted sand. Occasionally, a large puddling group can be found congregated on one spot. This swift-flying butterfly is common both in the nature reserves and urban parks. In flight, one normally catches a glimpse of its blue wings. Females are rarer, but often encountered when she tries to oviposit in areas where the host plants grow in abundance.

Early Stages:
The early stages of the Common Bluebottle feed on leaves of serveral plants in the Lauraceae family. There are four recorded local host plants, Cinnamomum iners (Common name: Clover Cinnamon, Wild Cinnamon), Cinnamomum camphora (Lauraceae, common name: Camphor Tree), Lindera lucida and Neolitsea zeylanica. Eggs and early stages of the Common Bluebottle are typically found on saplings at low heights.


Local host plant #1: Cinnamomum iners


Local host plant #2: Lindera lucida

A mating pair of the Common Bluebottle





A female Common Bluebottle was spotted laying an egg was on a sapling of wild cinnamon.
Can you spot the egg?


The eggs of the Common Bluebottle are laid on very young leaves or petioles of a sapling of the host plant. The spherical egg is creamy white with a diameter of about 1.2mm.


Left: egg laid on a young shoot.
Right: close-up on the egg shown in the left panel


Two close-up views of a mature egg of the Common Bluebottle.
Can you spot the mandible?


The egg takes 3 days to hatch, and the newly hatched has a body length of about 3mm. Immediately after emergence, it turns around and eats the entire egg shell as its first meal. Its body is initially pale yellowish brown but turning dark greenish brown hours later. It has a pair of lateral spines each of the three thoracic segments, and another white pair at the anal segment. The body also features rows of short dorsal-lateral tubercles with long setae. Between feeds, the Common Bluebottle caterpillar of all instars rests on the upper leaf surface, usually alongside the midrib.


Two views of a newly hatched Common Bluebottle caterpillar.
Almost done with the egg shell in top view. Length: 3mm



Two views of 1st instar caterpillar, 1-day old, length: 4mm

After two days of feeding on young and tender leaves, the 1st instar caterpillar grows to a length of about 5mm. Now the body looks pumped up, and assumes a yellowish brown coloration with a green undertone. After a period of inactivity, the caterpillar moults to the next instar.
1st instar caterpillar, late in this stage, length: 5mm.

In the 2nd instar caterpillar, the thoracic segments are much enlarged from the 2nd to 3rd segment, compared to abdominal segments which taper towards the anal spine. The basal ends of the thoracic spines turn black while the distal ends are still yellowish brown. The body color is dark yellowish green with the abdominal segments in alternating shades of yellow to dark green.
The growth is again rather rapid, after just 2 days and the body length reaches about 6-8mm, the caterpillar moults to the next instar.


Two Common Bluebottle caterpillars (1st and 2nd instar) sighted resting on the upper surface
of Wild Cinnamon leaves in the Southern Ridges.



2nd instar caterpillar, length: 7mm

There is no drastic change in appearance in the 3rd instar caterpillar. Noteworthy are the change to completely black (with bluish shines) thoracic spines, and greater contrast between the yellow and dark green ``rings'' on the abdominal segments. This instar takes another 2 days to complete with body grown to about 10-12mm in length.


3rd instar caterpillar, length: 9.5mm

The body of the 4th instar caterpillar is mainly yellowish green, speckled with small yellow markings. Dorsally, a prominent yellow transverse band connects the two spines on the 3rd thoracic segment. A faint and thin yellow band runs laterally on each side. In contrast to yellowish green in the precedingr segments, the anal segment is bluish green. This instar lasts a further 2 days with body length reaching about 19-20mm.


Two views of a 4th instar caterpillar, length: 27mm

A 4th instar Common Bluebottle caterpillar found in the Southern Ridges

The 5th instar caterpillar closely resembles the 4th instar. The only noticeable change is the more prominent yellow transverse band connecting the 3rd pair of thoracic spines, and the basal ends of the first two pair of thoracic spines and the anal pair turning white. The 3rd pair of thoracic spine is almost completely white with the basal end circled in alternating black and yellow.

5th instar caterpillar, early in this stage, length: 29mm

As with the Common Mime featured in an earlier life history article, the Common Bluebottle caterpillars also possess an osmeterium in the prothoracic segment. This informative Australian site shows the fully everted osmeterium of the final instar caterpillar.

The 5th instar lasts for 4 days, and the body length reaches up to 40-43mm. Toward the end of this instar, the body gradually shortens in length, the body color turning almost entirely green after the fading away of the yellow transverse band and most yellow speckles. Eventually the caterpillar comes to rest on the surface of a leaf in an upright position and becomes a pre-pupatory larva.

Two views of a pre-pupatory larva of the Common Bluebottle.
Pupation takes place a day later. The pupa suspends itself with a silk girdle from the leaf surface, further secured with and a firm anchor at the posterior end. The pupa is green with a slender and obtusely pointed thoracic process. Lateral and yellow ridges run from the cremaster to the tip of pointed thoracic process giving the pupa a veined leaf appearance.



Two views of a late pre-pupatory larva of the Common Bluebottle,
with the pupation just minutes away.





A time-lapse pupation sequence of a Common Bluebottle



Two views of a leaf like pupa of the Common Bluebottle.

The pupal period lasts for 10 days, and the pupa turns black in the wing pads the night before eclosion. The bluish-green spots on the forewings also become visible through the pupal skin at this stage. The adult butterfly emerges the next morning to commence the ``high-flying'' phase of its life cycle.


Maure pupa of a Common Bluebottle caterpilar, with the left picture taken hours earlier than the right.
The orange band on the adult abdomen is also visible in the right panel.


A newly eclosed Common Bluebottle resting near its pupal case.


A newly eclosed Common Bluebottle

References:
  • The Butterflies of The Malay Peninsula, A.S. Corbet and H.M. Pendlebury, 4th Edition, Malayan Nature Society.
  • The Butterflies of Hong Kong, M. Bascombe, G. Johnston, F. Bascombe, Princeton University Press 1999
  • Don Herbison-Evans & Stella Crossley: "Caterpillar of Australia", Life History of Graphium sarpedon choredon.
Text by Horace Tan, Photos by Benedict Tay, Anthony Wong, Tan Ben Jin, Khew SK and Horace Tan

17 January 2009

Butterfly of the Month - January 2009

Butterfly of the Month - January 2009
The Cornelian (Deudorix epijarbas cinnabarus)



As we step into the final year of the first decade of the new millennium with trepidation, anxiety and concern at the tumultuous global economy, where jobs are at stake, and salaries in danger of going southwards, we look in anticipation for a silver lining towards a quick recovery. Whilst we spend the last few days of the Lunar Year of the Rat, and herald the coming of the Year of the (Earth) Ox, there should be some reason for cheer and a more optimistic outlook ahead but let's spare a thought for those who are less fortunate.



This month, we again feature a bright red butterfly species, for good luck and fortune for the start to 2009. This month, we introduce the Cornelian (Deudorix epijarbas cinnabarus). The male is orange red above, with broad black borders on the forewing, and the costal area broadly blackened on the hindwing. The female is dark brown above, and unmarked. The underside is buff to greyish brown, with broad post-discal bands and cell-end bars and defined by narrow white stripes.



So how did the butterfly get its common English name? The word Cornelian is often associated with the semi-precious gemstone "cornelian" which is a red variety of chalcedony, which is cryptocrystalline quartz. Its red colour is due to the presence of iron impurities in the form of iron oxide or hematite. It can vary from a flesh red to a clear red. Looking at the bright orange-red uppersides of the males of the Cornelian, we can understand why it is named so.



It has solid jet-black eyes, and the rather long antennae is orange-tipped. Each hindwing bears a filamentous white tipped tail, and there is a black orange-crowned eyespot at the tornal area of the hindwing, with some bluish-green iridescent scaling. The tornal lobe is pronounced and bears a black spot with some orange borders.



The Cornelian is rare and when encountered, the species is usually observed singly. The butterfly is a rapid flyer, but is often observed easily when it stops to feed at flowering plants in the forest. It is essentially a forest-dependent species, and is rarely seen outside the forested nature reserves of Singapore.

The caterpillars of the Cornelian are known to feed inside the fruits of the pomegranate and lychee, and probably a number of other similar pulpy fruits.



ButterflyCircle wishes all members and visitors a Happy & Prosperous Lunar New Year and Gong Xi Fa Cai!

Text by Khew SK ; Photos by James Chia & Khew SK

10 January 2009

Life History of the Common Mime

Life History of the Common Mime (Chilasa clytia clytia)




Butterfly Biodata:
Genus: Chilasa Moore, 1991
Species: clytia
Linnaeus, 1758
Subspecies: clytia
Linnaeus, 1758
Wingspan of Adult Butterfly: 95mm
Local Caterpillar Host Plant: Cinnamomum iners (Lauraceae)
[Synonym: C. initidum, C. paraneuron]
http://butterflycircle.blogspot.sg/2015/05/larval-food-plant-for-butterflies-wild.html
A Common Mime visiting flowers with wings fully opened giving us a full view of its upperside


A Common Mime taking nectar from Lantana in an urban hill park


A Common Mime puddling on a wet sandy area in the nature reserves

Physical Description of Adult Butterfly:
Worldwide, the Common Mime occurs in two morph-groups in both sexes, but In Singapore, only the black-and-white striped form-dissimilis occurs. This form is velvety black with extensive white streaks and spots on the upperside. Underside is similar to the upperside with slightly larger white markings, and on the hindwing there is a row of conspicuous yellow marginal spots. Head, thorax and abdomen are black with prominent white spots.

Field Observations of Butterfly Behaviour: The Common Mime is relatively common in Singapore, and can be seen in both the nature reserves and developed areas. The butterfly mimics the distasteful Danainae species for protection against predators. When the adults visit flowering shrubs, their slow and graceful flight resemble those of the distasteful Blue Glassy Tiger and the Dark Glassy Tiger. The adults have the habit of puddling on wet grounds.
Early Stages:
Across the range where this species occurs, the early stages feed on leaves of serveral plants in the Lauraceae family. The sole recorded local host plant, Cinnamomum iners (Common name: Clover Cinnamon, Wild Cinnamon), is a very common plant all over Singapore, readily found in nature reserves, gardens, parks and wastelands etc. It is a small to medium-sized tree with 3-nerved leaves. Eggs and early stages of the Common Mime are typically found on saplings at heights from knee to waist level.

Host plant : Cinnamomum iners


A female Common Mime taking off after an egg was laid on a wild cinnamon sapling.
Can you spot the egg?


The eggs of the Common Mime are laid on young leaves or petioles of a sapling of the host plant. Sometimes a few eggs could be found on the same sapling, and occasionally in close proximity. The spherical egg is creamy white with the surface coated with a non-uniform layer of orange-yellow granulated substance. Diameter: 1.2-1.3mm.


Left: egg freshly laid as featured in the previous picture.
Right: a group of three eggs on the petiole of a young leaf


Left: freshly laid egg; Middle: developing egg; Right: mature egg

The egg takes 3 days to hatch. The young caterpillar eats its way out of the mature egg, and then proceeds to finish up the rest of the egg shell. The newly hatched has a dark brown head, rows of short dorsal-lateral tubercles with long setae, and an initial body length of about 3mm. It is mainly pale brown with white patches on the the middle and posterior segments.


Newly hatched Common Mime caterpillar eating egg shell, length: 3mm

As it feeds and grows, the body color darkens to feature black lateral markings, and both yellowish brown and whitish dorsal patches. The head capsule also turns black. In this and the next three instars, the Common Mime caterpillars resemble bird droppings as they rest on the leaf surface.


1st instar caterpillar, length: 3p5mm

As the 1st instar caterpillar grows to a length of about 6.5mm, the dark lateral markings decolorizes and disappears. There is a white saddle on the 3rd-4th abdominal segments and white markings on the posterior abdominal segments. After about 2-3 days in 1st instar, the caterpillar moults to the next instar.

1st instar caterpillar, length: 5mm (top); 6.5mm (bottom)

The 2nd instar caterpillar has a similar appearance to the 1st instar caterpillar except for the longer and stubby processes, brighter shade of orange on dorsal patches, and distinctly white color on the saddle mark and posterior abdominal segments.
The growth is rather rapid and this instar lasts only 1-2 days. The body length reaches about 10-11mm before the next moult.


2nd instar caterpillar, early in this stage, length: 10.5mm

In the 3rd instar, again there is no drastic change in physical appearance except for the greater contrast between the black and orange markings. This instar takes 2 days to complete with body grown to about 19mm in length.


3rd instar caterpillar, early in this stage, length: 11mm



A time-lapse sequence of the moulting from the 3rd to the 4th instar


The 4th instar caterpillar has more extensive white markings on it body. The white patch on the posterior abdominal segments has extended to the whole of abdominal segment 7 and white lateral patches appear on the thoracic segments. This instar lasts 3 days with body length reaching about 33mm.


4th instar caterpillar, early in this stage, length: 20mm


A 4th instar Common Mime caterpillar found in the Jurong Lake area

The next moult brings the caterpillar to the 5th and final instar with a dramatic change in appearance. The body is dark greyish black in base color with numerous inconspicuous black spots embedded. On each side of the body, there are two rows of fleshy processes on segments 1 to 4 and single row on the other segments. A crimson red spot is featured at the base of each fleshy process. A sub-spiracular row of crimson red spot also occurs in the abdominal segments. The body also features large creamy yellow patches organized as follows: 1) a dorsal row of large irregularly-shaped patches; 2) a short lateral row on the posterior abdominal segments starting from abdominal segment 7, and 3) a front lateral row of yellow patches spanning all thoracic segments and abdominal segments 1, 2 and 3. The front lateral row connects with the dorsal row in abdominal segment 3.

5th instar caterpillar, second day after the moult, length: 50mm


A 5th instar Common Mime caterpillar found in a clearing in the Southern Ridges.

All instars of the Common Mime possess a fleshy organ called osmeterium in the prothoracic segment. Usually hidden, the osmeterium can be everted to surprise any intruder when the caterpillar senses the threat, The osmeterium is pale brown in the first four instars, and light indigo-blue in the final instar.


Partially everted osmeterium of a 1st intar Common Mime caterpillar


The dark to light brown osmeterium of a 4th instar Common Mime caterpillar


The indigo blue osmeterium of a final instar Common Mime caterpillar

The 5th instar lasts for 4 days, and the body length reaches up to 55mm. Toward the end of this instar, the body gradually shortens in length. Eventually the caterpillar comes to rest on the lower surface of a stem and becomes a pre-pupatory larva.

A pre-pupatory larva of Common Mime.
Top: preparing its anchor point; Bottom: having completed its silk girdle

Pupation takes place a day later. The pupa suspends itself with a silk girdle from the stem. The pupa resembles a broken twig about 38-40mm long, brownish with streaks and blotches,. The posterior segment is so modified that the pupa appears to have grown out of the branch to which the pupa anchors.

A Common Mime caterpillar molts to its pupal stage. [Added on 29 May 2011]


Two views of a twig-like pupa of the Common Mime.

After 11-12 days, the pupa turns black as the development within the pupal case draws to a close. The white spots on the forewings are now visible through the pupal skin at the wing pad area. The next morning the adult butterfly emerges from the pupal case.

An animated time-lapse sequence of the early portion of the eclosion event.


The eclosion of the Common Mime in a grid mosaic.



A newly eclosed Common Mime drying its wings near the empty pupal case


A newly eclosed Common Mime

References:
  • The Butterflies of The Malay Peninsula, A.S. Corbet and H.M. Pendlebury, 4th Edition, Malayan Nature Society.
  • The Butterflies of Hong Kong, M. Bascombe, G. Johnston, F. Bascombe, Princeton University Press 1999
Text by Horace Tan, Photos by Bobby Mun, Federick Ho, James Chia, Khew SK and Horace Tan