Sunday, January 27, 2008

Copper Flash pupa and Baron caterpillar

I just came back from an overseas trip this morning and the first thing I did was to check on the Copper Flash pupa and The Baron caterpillar.

In the Copper Flash breeding cage, I saw a butterfly drying its wings so it must have just emerged today. Yahoo!

I could see the cell-end bars on the underside of both wings and a spot in the middle of the forewing cell. There is no doubt that this is indeed a Rapala pheretima.

The Baron caterpillar has grown quite a bit. It is 55mm long and it had finished all the mango leaves in the breeding cage. I was out of mango leaves so I went out to get more leaves. When I came back and was about to put the new leaves in the breeding cage, I saw a tiny green thing wriggling on the a leaf. I couldn't believe my eyes. Not another Baron caterpillar!

It is rather small, only 2.5mm long, probably at the 2nd instar. It looks totally different from the later instar caterpillar. From the closeup photos above , you can see the early instar caterpillar has short simple spines while the later instar caterpillar has long branching spines.

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.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Calling Green Baron !!

Last week I was browsing a local plant forum when I came acorss a post with the above subject line. I knew immediately I will have another 'baby' in my nursery. In this case it is a caterpillar which I last reared in 2oo1 ! It is the caterpillar of a butterfly by the name of The Baron (Euthalia aconthea).

I will never forget when I first saw this lovely caterpillar at Min Xin Primary school on 23rd Jun 2001. Simon and I were there to advice the school on how to attract more butterflies to the school's garden when I noticed a mango (Mangifera indica) sapling with leaves showing tell tale sign of being eaten by caterpillars. I look at the under side of the eaten leaves but could not find any caterpillar. Just when I was about to give up, I noticed something moving on one of the leaves. On closer examination, I saw a caterpillar web like projections and patterns mimicking the veins of the mango ! The camofludge was so good that it would fool all except those who know what they are looking for.

In additon to Mango, the caterpillar of The Baron also feeds on the leaves of Cashew nut (Anacardium occidentale).

In 2001, I was using a 1.3MP Sony Cybershot DSC-S30 , a top of the line digital camera at that time. Even though it has only 1.3MP, it takes great macro photos and was a god send for recording early stages of butterflies. The photo on the top right was taken with the DSC-30.