Sunday, December 21, 2008

Three hawkmoth caterpillars

I am very happy today because I have acquired 2 new hawkmoth caterpillars.

1. Macroglossum sitiene on Paederia foetida
I found an egg and an early instar caterpillar on a Paederia foetida growing on a railing along a pedestrian walkway. The is the caterpillar of the 'HummingBird' hawkmoth that we usually see during dusk. It has visited my garden many times but I still have not managed to photograph it :-(

2nd instar caterpillar and egg

P. foetida growing on railing

2. Pergesa acteus hawkmoth caterpillar feeding on Caladium bicolor
A friend sms me today asking if I want a caterpillar which is defoliating her Caladium. I went over and saw this lovely caterpillar finishing up the last leaf of my friends red Caladium.
I took the caterpillar back and both of us are very happy - a win-win situation !

3. Enpinanga borneensis feeding on Dillenia suffruticosa aka Simpoh Air
This is a very common hawkmoth around where I stay. The three caterpillars below are at different stages. The brownish one is about to transform into a pupa, the green one on the top right is most likely in the 4th or 5th instar while the thin and long one at the bottom is most likely in the 2nd or 3rd instar.

Friday, December 12, 2008

More caterpillars

Here are a few of the caterpillars I am rearing ..

1. Arhopala pseudocentaurus - Centaur Oakblue
I found this caterpillar on a Eugenia grandis (aka Jambu Laut or See Apple) tree along a road. The caterpillar was tended by a colony of "Kerengga" ants (Oecophylla smaragdina).
The adult emerged 8 days after the caterpillar pupated

2. I found this moth caterpillar on my Eugenia jambos ! Unfortunately it didn't make it so I have no idea what moth it is :-( I am going to keep a look out for this caterpillar on my Jambu Air tree.
3. Moth caterpillar on Ricinus communis - Castor Oil plant.
I have seen similar looking caterpillars in the past but I always ignored them because they do very little harm to my plants. Now that I am into moths, I decided to rear it to find its identity. The caterpillar builds a long narrow cone like structure and take refuge in it. Like a snail, it moves around in it and extends its body out when feeding. I managed to take a shot of it when it was feeding.
4. Drepana fulvata
I am saving the best for last. I found this interesting looking caterpillar hanging on a thread from a Rambutan tree (Nephelium lappaceum) along Neo Tiew road. This is the exact same caterpillar Simon and I found on a rmabutan tree around Upper Pierce area many years ago.
At that time we had had no idea what it was and thought it was a butterfly caterpillar.
If you think the caterpillar looks weird, wait till you see the pupa ! Read more about it here .

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

High Rise Garden

One of the questions I get asked a lot is "Will buttefly visit my garden on the X floor ?"

The answer is - It depends.

If a high rise garden is next to a tall tree, wooded area or nature park, there is a good chance that butterflies will visit the garden, that is assuming the garden has something to attract them in the first place. A case in point is my garden on the 6th floor. My apartment is located not too far from a neighbourhood park. Just a month after I moved in I get Lime Butterfly (Papilio demoleus) visiting my Golden Dew Drop (Duranta repens) and Kaffir Lime (Citrus hystrix) plants. It visits the Golden Dew Drop flowers for nectar and Kaffir Lime to lay eggs.

I usually just let the caterpillars feast on my Kaffir leaves. However, when there are too many caterpillars, my Mrs will pass some to her friends.

Last month I saw a Grass Yellow (Eurema sp) and Lesser Grass Blue (Zizina otis) in my garden. The Grass Yellow was probably attracted by flowers and the Lesser Grass Blue was laying eggs on Desmodium weed. I have no idea how such a tiny butterfly managed to fly all the way up to a garden on the 6th floor and locate its larva host plant ! In the evening sometimes I see Hummingbird Hawk Moth(Macroglossum sp) buzzing around my Sui Mei (Wrightia reliogisa) plant. Just now at about 6pm I saw an Orange Awlet (Bibasis harisa) in my garden ! It is a rare sight as this is not a common butterfly. I didn't manage to take a shot of the butterfly but this is how an Orange Awlet looks like :

So butterfly do visit high rise garden !

I have to point out that I have lots of plants (>100), flowers and tall shrubs in garden. I will be planting some larva host plants soon and we'll see if that attracts more butterflies.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Batwings and Clubtail

The Batwings and Clubtails are uncommon butterflies in Malaysia and I get excited every time I see one of these lovely papilionidae butterflies.

1. Parides (Antrophaneura) varuna (male and female) - Common Batwing.
The caterpillar of this butterfly resembles that of the Common Rose (Pachliopta aristolochiae) and feeds on Aristolochia tagala.
2. Parides (Antrophaneura) nox (female)- Malayan Batwing.

3. Pachliopta neptunus (female)- The Yellow-bodied Clubtail
I have seen this butterfly a few times in Panti Forest in Johor but they were always too fast to photograph. On my recent trip to Cameron Highland, I found this tattered specimen flying around Tanah Rata area. I stretched out my hand hoping it would rest on my hand and it did ! I manged to take one shot with my P&S camera before it took off.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Exotic caterpillars

I was in Penang last week and had the opportunity to photograph some exotic caterpillars.

1. This is the caterpillar of the Malayan Owl (Neorina lowii). Typical of the caterpillar from the Satyrinae family, it has a pair of processes on the head and anal segment but in the late instar the processes are held close together.

2. This is most likely the caterpillar of the Melanitis phedima.
3. This is the caterpillar of the Rajah Brooks Birdwing - Troides brookiana. The caterpillar feeds on Aristolochia foveolata.

4. This is the caterpillar of the Great Orange Tip - Hebomoia glaucippe. The shape of the caterpillar is typical of the caterpillar from the Pieridae family. The caterpillar feeds on Crateva religiosa.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Photo index of butterflies and moths of Fraser's Hill - Part I

Over the next few months, I will be setting up a checklist for the butterflies and moths of Fraser's Hill on my ButterflyPals website. The first batch of photos on Sphingidae (Hawk Moths) has been posted here.

This will be followed by Saturniidae and Butterfly photos.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Butterflies of Fraser's Hill - Part II

I will continue from where I left off on Butterflies of Fraser's Hill. Below are more exotic butterflies from Fraser's Hill :

1. Derca verhuelli (The Brimstone butterfly)
This one is very RARE and to the untrained eyes it looks like just another Pieridae. This is a lifer for me. This is the only species of this genus in Malaysia.

2. Triodes brookiana albescens (Rajah Brooke's Birdwing)
This is the king of butterflies in Malaysia. We found this track where RBB plies up and down the track. During one trip we saw >15 flying low along the track and after waiting for what felt like forever, one finally puddles with 2 Papilio memnon.

3. Amblypodia narada
This is another lifer for me. The upperside is deep shining purple-blue, just breath taking !

4. Delias Descombesi (Red Spot Jezebel)
This very pretty Pieridae is very common at Fraser's Hill. It usually stays high up at the canopy ;-( so it is difficult to get close up shot of this butterfly. The male is totally white on the upperside while the female is black dusted on the upperside forewings

to be continue ...

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Opening of Changi Airport Terminal 3 Butterfly Garden

The World's First Butterfly Garden in an airport was officially opened today at Changi T3 by Mrs Lim Hwee Hua, Senior Ministor of State for Finance and Transport.

This is the 2nd butterfly garden which the Butterfly Interest Group of NSS has worked on, the first being the Alexandra Hospital Butterfly Trail which was setup in 2002.

BIG started collaborating with CAAS in May 2007 on the initial concept and feasibility of the garden and subsequently advice CAAS on the choice of butterfly species and plants for the garden. After a long 15 months and I am very pleased that we finally see the fruit of our labour. The butterfly garden is located at the Transit Mall of Changi Airport Terminal 3 and open 7x24 to transit passengers. It is designed as a tropical nature retreat to create a tropical butterfly habitat. At any one time there are about 2000 butterflies in the enclosure. As such, even during the opening where it was drizzling and cloudy, the garden was buzzing with butterflies fluttering around and feeding on flowers. As this is a new garden, the project team is continuously monitoring and refining the setup. New host plants, nectaring plants and butterfly species will be added over time to ensure the garden is attractive and lively year round.

As the T3 Butterfly Garden is located in the Transit mall, it is thus only accessible to transit passengers. However, BIG has been granted special permission by CAAS to conduct butterfly walks inside the garden. Do watch out for announcements on BIG website on upcoming walk in the T3 Butterfly garden. The walk is exclusively for NSS members and will be on first come first serve basis.

So NSS membership has its privileges ! Sign up as NSS member now if you would like to visit the T3 Butterfly Garden.

Below are some photos taken during the opening of the garden :

1. Gan and Simon with staff from Butterfly House Consultancy Sdn Bhd, the company that setup the T3 Butterfly Garden. (L-R Mr Lim, Joseph, Chin, Gan, Mrs Goh, Mr Goh and Simon)

2. Representatives from NSS at the opening - Adeline, Gan, Vilma and Simon

3. Simon and Gan with Mrs Lim Hwee Hua (Senior Minister of State for Finance and Transport and Mr Foo Sek Min (Senior director of CAAS’ Airport Management Group)

4. Simon and Gan inside the T3 Butterfly Garden

5. Signage inside the garden

6. I only had my P&S camera with me so I only managed to photograph those not so active butterflies.
Clockwise from top left - mating pair of Papilio polytes (Common Mormon) with female above and male below, Junonia atlites (Grey Pansy) , Catopsilia scylla (Orange Emigrant) and Junonia ipitha (Chocolate soldier).

Like the Alexandra Hospital Butterfly Trail, the T3 Butterfly Garden is a great place for observing and photographing butterflies that are otherwise rare or not approachable in the wild - The Chocolate Soldier, Common Mormon form romulus, Common Sergeant, Great Mormon, Clipper just to name a few.

That's it for now. Watch this space for more photos of the garden.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Hello where have you been ?

I moved into a new place in July and have been busy in the last one and a half months setting up my new 'garden'. My weekends have been spent shopping for plants and garden accessories, re potting plants and replacing the red clay soil in the planters. It is hard work but rewarding

Most people know me as the butterfly man but I am as much into plants as butterflies. In fact my interest in plants started before I was into butterflies and I have been doing 'gardening' for the last 40 yrs !

These are some of the plants which I have :

Air Plant (Tillandsia) requires very little maintenance and is perfect for apartment gardening. I have more than 100 airplants and these are just some of my favorite :
1. T araujei

2. T. capitata

Episcias are plants belonging to the Gesneraid family and they are grown for their colourful and interesting foliage.
1. Episcia 'Silver Skies', a lovely miniature variety

2. Episcia 'Pink Acajou'

and these are some of my Episcia collection

African violets (Saintpaulia sp) also belong to the Gesneriad family and require cooler temperature to do well. In Singapore, they do best in air-conditioned environment, e.g. office environment. Given the right condition, they requires very little care and flower non-stop. These are some AV I grow in my office.

That's it for now.

BTW, a Lime butterfly has found my Kaffir Lime (Limau Purut) plant and has laid a few eggs on it. I will post some pix of the egg and cat next time.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Butterflies of Fraser's Hill - Part I

I am addicted to Fraser's Hill ! The variety of moths and butteflies there are just amazing. My recent trips there yield quite a number of lifers (Yasoda pita, Amblypodia narada, Cyrestis cocles earli f. earli and formosa, Derca verhuelli ...) and many close up shots of rare buttreflies - Pallid Faun, Wizard, Banded Peacock, Rajah Brooke's birdwing .. !

I will start by showing you some 'die-die must see' butterflies from Fraser' Hill :

1. Melanocyma faunula (Pallid Faun) - This is the one butterfly you must see at Fraser's Hill. It can be found at Jeriau waterfall but rest high up on at canope. Nick Baker found a freshly emerged specimen drying its wing at eye-level near to our bungalow !

2. Kaniska canace (Blue Admiral) - The next butterfly to look out for at Fraser's Hill is the Blue Admiral. It is a fast flier and like to perch at the tip of a leaf. I have seen this butterfly on 5 separate occasions, trice along Telecom loop, once along the road to Jeriau waterfall and another time along Sri Pahang road.

3. Heliophorus epicles (Purple Sapphire) - This is another rare highland gem. We shot this one near the children playground !

4. Delias descombesi (Red Spot Jezebel) - There are many beautiful Pieridae at Fraser's hill and the Red Spot jezebel is the most common Pieridae there. It can be easily recognize by the bright yellow hindwings and red streak along the costal margin.

5. Prioneris thestylis (Spotted Sawtooth) - This is a large and robust butterfly. The underside hindwing is entirely yellow with black veins.

6. Yasoda pita (Branded Yamfly) - This is the highland version of The Yamfly (Loxura atymnus). It is larger and has more rounded wings and is not uncommon at the hill top.