04 October 2014

Life History of the Common Redeye

Life History of the Common Redeye (Matapa aria)

Butterfly Biodata:
Genus: Matapa Moore, 1881
Species: aria Moore, 1866
Wingspan of Adult Butterfly: 35-40mm
Caterpillar Local Host Plants: Bambusa_heterostachya (Poaceae; common name: Malay Dwarf Bamboo), Bambusa multiplex (Poaceae, common name: Hedge Bamboo, Chinese Dwarf Bamboo), other Bambusa spp., Dendrocalamus spp.

A male Common Redeye showing the brand on the forewing.

The close-up view of the red eye of a Common Redeye.

Physical Description of Adult Butterfly:
On the upperside, the wings are dark buff brown to black with the hindwing cilia pale yellowish grey. The male has a oblique, greyish brown, brand in spaces 1b and 2 on the forewing. On the underside, the wings are ochreous brown. The eyes are red.

Field Observations of Butterfly Behaviour:
The Common Redeye is moderately rare in Singapore although its caterpillars can be found rather easily on its host plants (various bamboo spp.) on many occasions. The adults are mainly sighted at locations where there are bamboo clumps in the vicinity, and such locations could be urban parks, gardens, wastelands or the nature reserves. The adults are fast flyers and rests with its wings folded upright.

Early Stages:
The Common Redeye is known to utilize a number of bamboo spp. as its larval food plants. The caterpillars feed on bamboo leaves in all instars, and live in rolled-up leaf shelters.

Local host plant #1: Bambusa multiplex.

Local host plant #2: Bambusa vulgaris.

The eggs are laid singly on the underside of a leaf of the host plant. At times, multiple oviposition visits could lead to several eggs deposited on the same leaf. Typically the egg is concealed in a mass of setae from the abdominal tip of the mother. It is dome-shaped with its micropylar sits atop in a large orangy/reddish spot. There are many longitudinal ridges running radially from the micropylar. The colour of the egg is initially pale yellowish beige but becoming purplish as the egg matures. It is rather large with a diameter of about 1.6mm.

Two views of an egg of the Common Redeye, diameter: 1.6mm.

A sequence of three shots showing the development of the maturing egg on the left, while the one on the right is still in its early stage of development.

It takes about 5 days for the egg to hatch. The young caterpillar eats just enough of the shell to emerge, and then immediately proceeds to finish the remaining egg shell. The newly hatched has a length of about 3.2mm. Its bright crimson red body is cylindrical in shape with a small number of very short and tiny dorso-lateral and lateral setae. There is a tuff of moderately long setae on the posterior segment. Its head is black with a black collar lying behind it on the prothorax.

Two views of a newly hatched 1st instar caterpillar, length: 3.5mm.

After consuming the egg shell, the newly hatched caterpillar  constructs its first leaf shelter, typically at the tip of a leaflet of the palm frond. The body colour loses its intense reddish tone after a few feeding sessions on the leaf. The 1st instar takes about 2 days to complete with body length reaching about 6.5-7mm.

Two views of a 1st instar caterpillar, length: 5mm.

A 1st instar caterpillar venturing out of its leaf shelter to feed on the leaf lamina in the vicinity.

The body of the 2nd instar caterpillar resembles that of the first instar. Initially the body is yellowish red with red tones gradually loses its prominence sa the instar progresses. This instar lasts a total of 2-3 days with the body length reaching up to 8.5-9mm.

Two views of a 2nd instar caterpillar, newly moulted, length: 5.2mm.

Two views of a 2nd instar caterpillar,  length: 8mm.

The 3nd instar caterpillar resembles the 2nd instar caterpillar except for a more yellowish green body colour, and the presence of a small brownish patch on the anal plate. By the end of this instar, the body colour is entirely yellowish green. This instar lasts a total of 3-4 days with the body length reaching up to 12-13mm.

Two views of a 3rd instar caterpillar, early in this stage, length: 9mm.

Two views of a late 3rd instar caterpillar, dormant prior to its moult, length: 12mm.

The 4th instar caterpillar differs from the 3rd instar caterpillar in having the colour of the head capsule changed to dark brown or orange. This instar lasts 6-8 days with the body length reaching up to 18-20mm.

Two views of a 4th instar caterpillar, early in this stage,  length: 12.88mm.

Two views of a 4th instar caterpillar, late this stage, length: 18mm.

Two views of another 4th instar caterpillar, with orange-coloured head, late this stage, length: 17mm.

A late 4th instar caterpillar, with dark brown head, dormant prior to its moult, length: 19mm.

The 5th instar caterpillar has a head which is orange-coloured with no markings, and its body much more whitish in appearance with a slight hint of a yellow tone. The anal plate does not bear any marking.

A newly moulted 5th instar caterpillar (moulted from the one shown in the pic above).

Two views of a 5th instar caterpillar, late in this stage, length: 24mm.

The leaf shelter of a 5th instar caterpillar sighted in the field.

The 5th instar takes about 7-9 days to complete with the body length reaching up to 24-29mm, Towards the end of this instar, the caterpillar ceases feeding and its body shrinks. Next it proceeds to construct the pupation shelter which is cylindrical in shape, open at the distal end but sealed at the other. In the pupation shelter, the caterpillar secretes large quantity of a whitish waxy substance, and spins a silk pad to anchor itself at the posterior end. Soon the caterpillar becomes dormant in the pupation shelter. This prepupatory phase lasts for 1-1.5 days.

The pupation shelter of a Common Redeye caterpillar.

A pupation shelter opened to reveal a pre-pupa of the Common Redeye.

Pupation takes place within the shelter. The pupa uniformly whitish with a yellowish undertone. It is secured via cremastral attachment to a silk pad. It has a short thorax and a rather long abdomen. Length of pupae: 20-22mm.

Two views of a pupa of the Common Redeye, length:24mm

After 6 days, the pupa becomes mostly black and the red eyes are visible through the pupal skin. Eclosion takes place the next day.

Two views of a mature pupa of the Common Redeye.

A newly eclosed Common Redeye.

  • [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, 2010.
Text by Horace Tan, Photos by Benedict Tay, Bobby Mun, Sunny Chir and Horace Tan

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