18 March 2017

Life History of the Purple Duke v2.0

Life History of the Purple Duke (Eulaceura osteria kumana )


Butterfly Biodata:
Genus: Eulaceura Butler, 1872
Species: osteria Westwood, 1850
Subspecies: kumana Fruhstorfer, 1913

Wingspan of Adult Butterfly: 50-70mm
Caterpillar Local Host Plant: Gironniera nervosa (Ulmaceae, common name: Common Rough Laurel).

A male Purple Duke taking nectar from ripened fruits of the Singapore Rhododendron.

Another male Purple Duke taking nectar from ripened fruits of the Singapore Rhododendron.

A sunbathing male Purple Duke giving a view of its upperside.

Physical Description of Adult Butterfly:
On the upperside, the male is purple brown with a prominent white discal band spanning both wings, broadening towards the tornal margin of the hindwing. The female is dull ochreous brown with obscure whitish markings on both wings. On the underside, the wings are tinged purplish blue in a side light, more so in the male. The white discal band spanning both wings are featured in both sexes, but in the female it is much thinner in the hindwing.

A female Purple Duke taking nectar from Sygyzium flowers.

A sunbathing female Purple Duke giving a view of its upperside.

The upperside view of a female Purple Duke.

Field Observations of Butterfly Behaviour:
Purple Duke is common in Singapore, but its presence is restricted to the nature reserve where its host plant occur in abundance. The adults have a habit of flying rapidly in low bushes and settling on the underside of leaves. In the field, the female can be easily mistaken to be a female of Euthalia species. Both sexes have the habit of puddling and taking nectar from ripened fruits and flowers.

A puddling male Purple Duke.

A male Purple Duke puddling in shallow drain in the northern catchment reserve.

A puddling female Purple duke.

A female Purple Duke taking nectar from ripened fruits of the Singapore Rhododendron.

Early Stages:
Only one local host plant is recorded for the Purple Duke. The plant, Gironniera nervosa (Common Rough Laurel), is common in the central catchment reserve. The caterpillars of the Purple Duke feed on leaves of the host plant, with the caterpillar in all but the final instar adopting the habit of eating the leaf lamina between secondary veins.

Local host plant: Gironniera nervosa (Common Rough Laurel).

Mostly underside view of leaves of Common Rough Laurel. Three caterpillars of the
Purple Duke can be seen on three separate leaves.


The eggs of the Purple Duke are laid singly on the leaf of the host plant, typically on the underside of the leaf. Each pale milky white egg is globular with a diameter of about 1.1mm. A number of longitudinal ridges are present. Each egg takes about 3-3.5 days to hatch. The young caterpillar nibbles away a portion of the egg shell to emerge, leaving the remnant uneaten.

Two views of an egg of the Purple Duke, 1-1.5 days old.

Two views of a mature egg of the Purple Duke, with portion of the egg shell eaten in the right panel.

With a length of about 3.5mm, the newly hatched is pale beige brown in both its body and head. There are a number of narrow whitish bands running length-wise on the body surface. The caterpillar also features two backward-pointing black-tipped anal processes.

Two views of a newly hatched caterpillar, length: 3.5mm.

As the 1st instar caterpillar grows up to a length of about 7-7.5mm, the body takes on a strong green undertone. After about 2.5-3 days in the 1st instar, the caterpillar moults to the next instar.

Two views of a 1st instar caterpillar, length: 7.3mm.

Two views of a late 1st instar caterpillar, dormant prior to its moult, length: 6.8mm.

The 2nd instar caterpillar has a few changes in its appearance as compared to the 1st instar caterpillar. Now the body ground colour is green, and the longitudinal bands are whitish to yellowish. The head capsule is black with two large cephalic horns, featuring side branches on the lateral peripherals as well as on the cephalic horns. This instar lasts about 4-5 days with the body length reaching up to 11mm before the next moult.

Two views of a 2nd instar caterpillar, newly moulted, the head capsule yet to turn black.

Two views of a 2nd instar caterpillar, length: 9.8mm.

Two views of a 2nd instar caterpillar, dormant prior to its moult.

The 3rd instar caterpillar resembles the 2nd instar caterpillar closely. The main change occurs in the head capsule where the black lateral processes and cephalic horns are proportionately longer. The head is mostly pale brownish. The many longitudinal bands in the earlier instar give way to a checkerboard pattern of yellow and green. The 3rd instar takes about 4-5 days to complete with the body length reaching up to 16-17mm.

Two views of a 3rd instar caterpillar, newly moulted.

Two views of a 3rd instar caterpillar, length: 15.2mm.

Two views of a late 3rd instar caterpillar, dormant prior to its moult, length: 15.7mm.

A late 3rd instar caterpillar found on a leaf in the field.

The 4th instar caterpillar resembles the 3rd instar caterpillar with the main change occurring again in the head capsule. Now the "face" is whitish green and the body appears to be predominantly green and adorned with numerous tiny yellowish spots. It has two prominent, pale whitish to yellowish dorso-lateral bands. This penultimate instar lasts about 7 to 10 days with body length reaching about 26-27mm.

Head of Purple Duke caterpillars. Left: 3rd instar; Right: 4th instar.

Two views of a 4th instar caterpillar, newly moulted.

Two views of a 4th instar caterpillar, late in this stage, length: 26mm.

Two views of a late L4 caterpillar, dormant prior to its moult, length: 25.5mm.

The next moult brings the caterpillar to its 5th and final instar. Now the head capsule is mostly whitish green and the cephalic horns pale reddish brown. The two pointed anal processes are greenish to pale reddish brown in colour.

Two views of a newly moulted 5th instar caterpillar .

Two views of a 5th instar caterpillar, length: 35mm.

A 5th instar caterpillar sighted on the underside of a leaf in the southern catchment reserve.

The 5th instar lasts about 11-13 days, and the body length reaches up to 45-47mm. In this instar, the caterpillar does not avoid secondary veins of the leaf when feeding.

Two views of a 5th instar caterpillar,late in this stage, length: 49mm.

A 5th instar caterpillar sighted in the northern catchment reserve.

Toward the end of the 5th instar, the body gradually shortens in length with the body base colour turning to translucent green. Eventually the caterpillar comes to rest on a chosen spot on the underside of a leaf. Here it stays dormant for a while before spinning a silk pad and anchoring its anal claspers to it. It then becomes an pre-pupatory larva in this upside-down pose.

An early pre-pupatory larva of the Purple Duke, length: 35-38mm.

A pre-pupatory larva of the Purple Duke.

Pupation takes place about 0.5-1 day later. The pupa suspends itself with a cremastral attachment to the silk pad on the substrate. The pupa is mainly green mottled with cryptic yellowish markings. Each pupa has a pair of short cephalic horns. The body has a slight keeled appearance as it broadens and tapers to a yellowish ridge on the dorsum. Length of pupae: 24-26mm.

Two views of a pupa of the Purple Duke.

After 6 days of development, the pupa turns yellowish brown in the abdomen and black in the wing pads as the development within the pupal case comes to an end. The next day the adult butterfly emerges from the pupal case.

Two views of a mature pupa of the Purple Duke.

A female Purple Duke emerges from its pupal case.
A newly eclosed female Purple Duke clinging on its pupal case.
A newly eclosed male Purple Duke resting near its pupal case.
References:
  • [C&P4] The Butterflies of The Malay Peninsula, A.S. Corbet and H.M. Pendlebury, 4th Edition, Malayan Nature Society, 1992.
  • Butterflies of Thailand, Pisuth Ek-Amnuay, 2nd Edition, 2012
  • A Field Guide to the Butterflies of Singapore, Khew S.K., Ink On Paper Communications, 2nd Edition, 2015.
Text by Horace Tan, Photos by Jonathan Soong, Benedict Tay, Huang CJ, Nelson Ong, Sunny Chir, Khew SK and Horace Tan

12 March 2017

About Butterflies - Talk at Seletar Country Club

About Butterflies
Talk by Foo JL at Seletar Country Club



Bright sunshine and blue skies greeted me on this beautiful Saturday morning as I made my way to the Seletar Country Club for a talk - “About Butterflies” by Mr Foo Jit Leang, the founder of the Butterfly Garden at Seletar Country Club. The Seletar Country Club (SCC) is an 18-hole golf and recreation club set right in the heart of the Singapore countryside. With rolling acres of lush greenery, it is strategically located on a hill overlooking the Lower Seletar Reservoir and the Johor Straits.





The Butterfly Garden was the brainchild of the founder, Mr Foo Jit Leang, who turned a small patch of greenery adjacent to the golf course into a vibrant ecological masterpiece of biodiversity that features 112 species of butterflies in March this year. On a good sunny day, a visitor can expect to see at least 25-30 different species of butterflies fluttering amongst the nectaring and caterpillar host plants that have been specially cultivated to attract butterflies to the garden.




At the scheduled time of 9:30am for Mr Foo's talk, the audience slowly turned up on this lazy Saturday morning, and soon the Seletar CC Auditorium was almost filled to capacity. The crowd of over 80 was mainly made up of families with young children - all with a common interest and love for nature and butterflies.



Mr Foo started his talk by educating the audiences on how to differentiate between a butterfly and a moth and the misconceptions about them. In general, butterflies have thin slender filamentous antennae which are club-shaped at the end. Moths, on the other hand, have curly, comb-like or feathery antennae, often filamentous and unclubbed.



Another common erroneous assumption about butterflies and moths is that all butterflies are colourful, whilst moths are dull and unattractive. Not all moths are dull in colour, some moths come in beautiful colours and are even more attractive than some butterflies. Some butterflies, on the other hand are drably-coloured and appear very plain and boring.



Mr Foo went on to talk about planting the appropriate species of nectaring and caterpillar host plants to attract certain species of butterflies. It was important to have a wide variety of plants in the garden to encourage a diversity of species to visit and lay eggs on their specific host plants for their caterpillars to feed on. There must also be adequate nectaring (flowering) plants to sustain the adult butterflies which feed on the nectar from the flowers of these plants.







At the end of his talk, Mr Foo invited the crowd to the SCC Butterfly Garden where he showed them the various types of caterpillars and pupae that were on display. The curious crowd gathered around to have a good look. They were fascinated by what they saw, especially the more interesting looking caterpillars of the Blue Nawab, Short Banded Sailor butterflies and the caterpillar of the Inchworm moth. The children were particularly awed by the diversity of colours, shapes and sizes of these caterpillars that would one day turn into beautiful butterflies.




What came next was what everyone was looking forward to, to get up close with the flying jewels – the beautiful butterflies! The highlight of the event would have to be the release of the butterflies, this drew everyone’s attention and the crowd gathered around in excitement. A few lucky kids even got their chance to release some recently-eclosed butterflies to their newfound freedom and to watch the butterflies flutter happily away!



Nets were also provided for the crowd to have some hand-on experience to capture the butterflies for a closer look. Kids were especially excited and ran around chasing the butterflies. Mr Foo and the other members of the SCC Butterfly garden were on hand to guide the kids to handle the nets gently and to ensure that no butterflies were harmed when capturing them. After taking a closer look at the butterflies, they were released into the garden again.



The Butterfly Garden was filled with fun, joy and laughter. I am truly happy to see so many parents who took the time to bring their children to this event and let them have more opportunities to be out in the nature. I hope that this event will spark their interest to do their part to care for our environment and the conservation of butterflies for everyone to enjoy!

Text by Loh Mei Yee : Photos by Janice Ang, Foo JL, Khew SK, Loh Mei Yee and Or Cheng Khim