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
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 a wonderful project to save the species. Where I observed
them, most of the caeruleans were females. Here are two on a
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.