Monday, January 21, 2008

An unusual cat at Clementi Woods Park

Last Wednesday, I was taking a morning walk with my wife Wai Yen at Clementi Woods Park (CWP) when she suddenly called out "Weei, there is a caterpillar crawling on the pavement !" CWP is located just next to my apartment and over the years I have explored every nooks and corners of this park for caterpillars and host plants. I know exactly where I can find the Orange Awlet (Bibasis harisa) caterpillar and what host plants and butterflies (not many) can be found in the park. "Another one of those hairy black moth caterpillar taking a morning walk" I thought. Not wanting to disappoint her, I turned around to look at the caterpillar.
"Impossible ! " I look around and I only see Acacia and Tembusu trees nearby, and a few Mistleltoes on the Acacia tree.

You see, Wai Yen has found the caterpillar of the Copper Flash (Rapala pheretima), an not very common Lycaenid butterfly ! I have reared this caterpillar a few times on Cassia fistula and Star Fruit but both of these plants are not found at CWP. So could the Copper Flash caterpillar be feeding on another host plant ?

I took the caterpillar back and placed it in a breeding cage with Acacia, Mistletoe and C. fistula leaves, hoping that it will eat one of these leaves and reveals its secret.
However, the caterpillar had its own agenda. It wondered around for 2 days day and did not eat any of the leaves ;-( The next day (19th Jan) it pupated on a dried leaf next to a Painted Jezebel (Delias hyparete) pupa case.

From the photo, we can see that the Copper Flash pupa (12mm) is about half the size of Painted Jezebel (20mm), which is roughly the size ratio of the two adult butterflies.

If I remember correctly, the pupation period for Copper Flash is about 7 days which means it should eclose on Jan 26th. I will post an update when it ecloses.

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