Tuesday, 12 November 2013

More Hope for The Metallic Caeruleans

Recently our weather has taken a turn for the worse and the butterfly
numbers have dropped. I took a short walk yesterday and stumbled 
upon a nice surprise - a colony of Metallic Caeruleans (jamides 
alecto). There were at least five individuals fluttering in and out of 
the area. The species is rather new record here, being rediscovered 
in 2008.

The metallic Caerulean is an uncommon butterfly that depends on 
the availability of Torch Ginger (nicolaia elatior) flowers for its
survival; the caterpillars only eat the flowers and not the leaves. 
While the plant is popularly cultivated in gardens around the island, 
as of 2011, the only known colony was at Mandai Orchid Garden, 
which is now gone.

Now, with the colony I found, there are three areas where they are
known to breed. One of them is in the Singapore Zoo! When plans 
were announced to close the Orchid Garden, the Zoo graciously 
worked with ButterflyCircle to transplant clumps of Torch Ginger to 
the Zoo in wonderful project to save the species. Where I observed 
them, most of the caeruleans were females. Here are two on a 
ginger bloom.

It is the largest of our Caeruleans (jamides sp) but is still a small 
butterfly, with a wingspan of 35mm. The uppersides of this butterfly 
are bright blue with a dark border. Underneath, it appears very 
similar to the other caeruleans. Here's a comparison with the most 
common member of the genus, the Common Caerulean.

I was thrilled to see the metallic caerleans doing so well at this new 
site. Many of the flowers I scrutinised had minuscule bite marks and 
holes; indications that there were caterpillars in the flowers. I did 
not see the caterpillars myself but the evidence was pretty 
compelling. The dark object is a visitor, a fruit fly.

It's great to see that this species has managed to establish itself in 
more than one location. I will keep the location of their colony 
undisclosed to ensure that these little butterflies can continue 
breeding with little disturbance. To finish off, here's a metallic 
caerulean I saw in the Zoo last year.


  1. Helleo Jonathan,
    I am Chilean journalist and I would like to interview about butterflies in Singapore. Yesterday I sent an email to you, but I am afraid that you did not receive it. Please, it would very wornderful if you can write to me. My mail is dcgonzal@uc.cl. Thank you very much.

    Best regards,

    Daniela González.

  2. Good job Jonny for finding these. It is great to hear of the success of transplanting the food plants. Well done ButterflyCircle! I doubt I would ever be able to tell the difference between these species in the field. At least there are some advantages of us having so few species here!

  3. Thanks Nick! I honestly wouldn't be able to differentiate them until I get a good look from the pictures. The only reason I could identify them immediately was because they were fluttering around Torch Gingers - a habit that none of the others exhibit.

  4. Hi Ms Daniela,
    I have replied to you by email. Hope you receive it!!