Thursday, February 28, 2008

The two eggs finally hatched today ! The white egg (#C8) hatched at~10am today while the hairy egg (#C9) hatched at ~4pm. Both eggs took 5 days to hatch.

Below are photos of the two 1st instar caterpillars.

#C8 is the bigger of the two, at 3.5mm long. It has a turf of hair on its posterior (pic top-left). After about an hour it started spinning threads to build a 'nest' (pic bottom-left) for itself.

I was getting worried when #C9 did not hatch at noon. I finally breaths a sigh of relieve when #C9 hatched in the evening. It is tiny, only 2mm long !

One thing that puzzled me is the size of the egg and caterpillar of these 2 skippers. I saw both females lay eggs. The #C8 female is smaller than #C9 but its egg and caterpillar are bigger than that of #C9!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Hot off the press !!

The two skipper eggs are just too small to see clearly with naked eyes. The diameter of the #C8 egg (photo below, left) is ~1mm while that of #C9 (photo below, right) is only ~0.6mm. So once again I have to resort to taking macro shots to examine the eggs.

Isn't digital camera amazing !!?
- The egg on the left shows something developing inside it.
- The egg on the right has changed colour. We can't see through the egg shell but it looks like it is developing as well.

Now I know both eggs are still well and alive. Yahoo !!

Did you notice the similarity and differences between the 2 eggs ?
- Both eggs have the shape of part of a sphere.
- The egg on the left is smooth while the one of the right has ridges.

If you are observant you would have noticed that one egg is laid on a monocot leaf while the other is on a dicot. These are all important clues which will help to narrow down the ID of the eggs. I will write about the significance of these clues in another post.

It is a moth !!

The pupa on the Cinnamon leaf eclosed last night at about 9pm ;-) The time of eclosion tells us it should be a moth and indeed it is !

It is a small moth, about 32mm across. I am sure you have noticed the basal area of the right forewing is transparent. The reason is the scales did not detach peoperly from the pupa case and you can see it on the empty pupa on the right!

I wrote in my Feb 18 post that the Baron pupa (C#4) should eclose on Feb 28th. It eclosed this morning, Feb 26 (8 days in pupa stage), 2 days earlier than the other Baron pupa ! It is a male and I released it back to Clementi Woods Park.

The 2 eggs I collected on Sunday still have not hatched. I am still keeping my fingers crossed, hoping they will hatch in the next one or 2 days.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Eggs, caterpillars and pupa from our urban park

I had a great outing yesterday. I was with Simon looking for caterpillars and we spotted an interesting pupa, 2 interesting caterpillars and 2 skippers ovipositing!

First the pupa. Bionic-eye Simon spotted a pupa on the leaf of a Wild Cinnamon (Cinnamomum iners ) tree. The pupa is only 15mm long and attached to the leaf like a Papilonidae and Pieridae pupa - upright, with the head at the top, anchored at the anal end and supported by a girdle. What could it be ? We have not seen any pupa that looks like this! If it were bigger, there is a possiblity that it is a butterfly pupa. However, since it is only 15mm, my guess is this is a pupa of a moth. The only way to confirm is to observe what comes out of the pupa. We will know the answer in a few days time ;-)

Next about the 2 caterpillars.
These are commonly known as Inchworm. They are larvae of moths of the family Geometridae. Unlike other caterpillars, they only have two or three pairs of prolegs at the rear end and no prolegs at the middle section of their abdomens. They move by drawing their hind end forward while holding on with the front legs, then advancing their front section while holding on with the prolegs. They are usually between 30~50mm long.

Lastly, about the eggs of the Skipper (Hesperiidae) butterfly

The eggs of the Skipper butterfly are very tiny and the only reason we were able to spot them is because we saw the females ovipositing.
The first egg (#C8, photo above, left) is smooth and milky white in color. Unfortunately I did not manage to photograph the skipper so I will have to rear the caterpillar to find out the id of the skipper.

The other egg (#C9, photo above, right) is unique because it is camouflaged by a bunch of dark colored hairs! Simon saw the skipper curling its abdomen but when we examine the leaf, we could not find any egg. We examined the leaf a few times and still could not find any egg. I decided to take a picture of the leaf and when I examine the leaf in the camera's LCD screen, I saw a white color egg! Amazing, a camouflaged egg!!! This is the first time we have seen a camouflaged egg !

Both eggs should hatch tomorrow or latest by Tuesday. More to come ...

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

A few uncommon butterflies

It has been quite some time since I went butterfly shooting so last Saturday I decided to visit a few of my favorite urban parks. It was a bright sunny day and there were lots of butterflies. I managed to photograph a few not so common butterflies which I want to show all of you:

1. The Knight (Lebadea martha parkeri)
This is a female. The male has forewings with white apex. Knight is usually found singly and you are likely to find it at Pulau Ubin, Pasir Ris Park and Telok Blangah Hill Park where its host plant, the broad-leaf Ixora can be found.

2. Banana Skipper (Erionota thrax thrax)
This is a fast flying large skipper with red colour eyes. It is so named because its caterpillar feeds on the banana leaf. When you see rolled leaves on a banana tree, you know the Banana Skipper is somewhere nearby!

3. A mating pair of Dark Banded Ace (Halpe ormenes vilasina )

This is a rare skipper, a 3-star ! To the untrained eyes it could easily be mistaken as a Banded Demon skipper.

4. Hieroglyphic Flat (Odina hieroglyphica ortina)
This is a 4-star, a very rare skipper! It has very unique patterns on the upperside and cannot be mistaken for any other skippers. It is extremely skittish and will dart off when approached.

Monday, February 18, 2008

I tried to update my Blog from China this evening but alas I can't reach from the hotel. It seems has been blocked in China. To get around this, I had to access via VPN.

I have started a list the caterpillers I rear here. The 2nd Baron caterpillar, C#4 pupated this morning, Jan 18th, before I left for airport so I did not have a chance photograph it :-( From my previous record I know it takes 10 days for the pupa to emerge so this pupa should eclode next Thu Feb 28th. Let's see if my prediction is correct.

This morning, Smyl from GCS found another caterpillar on her Golden Cane Palm (Dypsis lutescens). The caterpillar looks suspeciously like the Common Palmfly caterpillar in the previous post - 2 horns on the head, 2 long pointed tails at the rear. However, the Common Palmfly caterpillar is green in color and has yellow lines along it s body while this one is all brown without any lines or patterns. Maybe this is a freak Common Palmfly caterpillar ! Anyway, the only way to find out is to rear it so I am going to rear this one and see what it is.

19/2/08 - Before I managed to collect the caterpillar, Smyl sms me that the caterpillar has died. Most likely the caterpillar has been attacked by parasitic wasp ;-(

Friday, February 8, 2008

The Common Palmfly

The Common Palmfly (Elymnias hypermnestra) is a common butterfly in Singapore. It is so named because it is common; and its caterpillar feeds on many species of Palms.

I used to be able to easily find 3 ~ 4 Common Palmfly caterpillars feeding on Yellow Cane Palm (Dypsis lutescens) in my condominium. However, the recent frequent fumigations to combat Aedes mosquito have virtually killed all the Common Palmfly caterpillars in my condo ;-( So I was pleasantly surprised when I found a late instar Common Palmfly caterpillar on a Pygmy Dwarf Palm (Phoenix roebelenii) in mid January. I guess the Monsoon season rain must have contributed to the survival of this caterpillar. I took the caterpillar back, reared it and it pupated 6 days later. 7 days later it emerged from the pupa. It rested on my Sui Mui plant for a few hours before it took off.

I have lost count of how many caterpillars I have reared and released over the years. I think the number is anywhere between 50 to 100. One of these days I will flip through my log book and do a count.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Shucks. I missed it !!

I woke up at 7am and knew immediately that I was too late. I went over to my study room and saw an empty pupa :-( A male Baron was resting on the edge of the breeding box. Its wings had already fully expanded and ready to take off. I quickly grab my camera and took a few shots before it flew towards the window and in the direction of West Coast Park. Adios !!

Below are shots of the pupa before and after the butterfly emerged. The one of the left was shot at 11pm last night. Unlike the one shot yesterday evening, the Baron's wings have developed dark coloration and the patterns are no longer visible.

The one on the right is an empty pupa case.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The Baron

I have been traveling on and off for the past 3 weeks and I was afraid I will miss the opportunity to observe the caterpillar pupate and eclose. Fortunately, the Baron caterpillar pupated and eclosed when I was home.

I came home on Jan 27th and the caterpillar pupated on Jan 28th ! The pupa is green in colour, angular and looks like the head of a rodent. If you flip the photo vertically (the middle photo), you will see the semblance ! - the pointed ears, the eyes, nose ! Isn't it amazing ?

This morning (Feb 7th), the pupa became transparent and by 8pm, the patterns on upperside of the forewings can be clearly seen in the rightmost photo above. This means the butterfly will emerge tomorrow morning (10 days in pupa stage)! I am going to try to wake up at 5am tomorrow to observe the eclosion. Wish me luck !

The other Baron caterpillar has grown quite a bit. This is how the caterpillar looks like on Jan 30th. It is 15mm long and in its 3rd instar.

Today, Feb 6th, it is in its 4th instar and is 30mm long.