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Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Common Mormon Swallowtail Butterfly

The Common Mormon is one of the common swallowtail butterflies in Southeast Asia.  

The appearances of the male and female are similar.

But the female also has several subforms while the male Mormon butterfly has only one morph. Their name “Mormon” reflects this fact and  is based on the Polygamy practice within the Mormon religious sect.

Although I haven’t managed to photograph the other female subforms, I saw this male Common Mormon mistook a female Great Mormon as one of its own.

Unlike the Mormons, the multiple Common Mormon butterfly subtypes are purely for protection. Their appearances usually mimic certain inedible poisonous swallowtails such as the Common Rose (described in my previous blog) to repel predators.
The scientific name, Papilio Polytes, also indicates this fact that while papilio is a Latin word for butterfly, poly is a Greek word for many.

This sun basking Common Mormon gave me a chance to get a close look.

The development of its caterpillars is very interesting too. At early stage, the Common Mormon caterpillars look like bird droppings to confuse predators. 

At later stage, they change to a well camouflaged green colour with big eyespots,

then moult to a pupa.

The Common Mormon butterfly is a symbol of loyal love in China based on a legendary tragic love story (“The Butterfly Lovers” or “Liang Zhu”) which is often regarded as the Chinese equivalent to Romeo and Juliet in the West.

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Saturday, 14 July 2012

The Life Of Common Rose Swallowtail Butterflies

I have been trying to document the full life cycle of butterflies for sometime. After weeks of searching, I have finally photographed a life cycle of Common Rose----a swallowtail butterfly, thanks to a nature education park near my home.

The Common Rose butterfly is one of my favourite swallowtails even though it is a common species in South and Southeast Asia.  

Its striking red body and the bright red marks on the wings make it stand out not only in its environment but also in the swallowtail family.

The pretty colouration may seem beautiful to us humans but to its predators, it is a warning sign which indicates “poison”.  

In fact, this butterfly is inedible because of the poisons it has obtained from its caterpillar food plant. Its predators seem to be well informed of the danger and often leave this butterfly alone. This strategy works so well that some edible swallowtail butterflies have even learned to mimic its appearance.

When the sun is hot, this butterfly prefers to rest in the shade which gives me the opportunity to get very close.

The egg of Common Rose is very colourful too.

The caterpillar inside this egg seems to be coming out any minute.

The life of the larva, with its poison at hand, is also high profile.  

The pupas, on the other hand, are usually well hidden in small trees not far from its larva plant.

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Saturday, 7 July 2012

Clever Bagworms

I saw these delicate constructs hanging on a small tree recently. 


At first, I thought they might be pupas of a moth/butterfly.

Suddenly, one of them started moving around and then I realized there was a caterpillar inside each case. 


Actually, these Christmas ornament-like structures are the “houses” of the Bagworm, larva of the moth family Psychidae, which is named for the baglike cases it builds.  

Each Bagworm lives inside a case and only sticks its head out to feed on leaves.

In order to have access to plenty of food, all of their “houses” are mobile which move around with the houseowner.   

To ensure natural camouflage from predators, the building materials are all from the habitat, from dead leaves to small twigs.  

However, life at the bottom of the food chain can be very tough. It didn’t take long for this spider to find its meal inside this Bagworm’s house.

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