20 December 2014

Butterfly of the Month - December 2014

Butterfly of the Month - December 2014
The Chocolate Pansy (Junonia hedonia ida)

And we are into the final weekend before Christmas. If you haven't done your shopping for presents and gifts for your friends and loved ones, you'd better panic! It's cold and wet here in Singapore, with heavy rain on most afternoons in the past week or so. Going downtown to Orchard Road, Singapore's premier shopping street, and looking at the lights and decor, it does feel a lot like Christmas and one could almost expect a white-bearded ample-bodied man riding in his reindeer-powered sleigh up high amongst the skyscrapers. Ho Ho Ho.

Even as we celebrate the spirit of Christmas across the world, there have been very depressing incidents that have happened this December. The first one was the hostage situation in Sydney where a lone terrorist held a group of hostages at a coffee outlet. After a stand-off of over a day, it ended with the police storming the coffee outlet, but with the tragic loss of two innocent lives. That the terrorist was also killed in the ensuing gun battle was expected and some say deservingly. But if the misguided gunman was doing this all in the name of religion, then it portrays an even sadder situation.

In a separate incident over in Peshawar, Pakistan, a group of Taliban terrorists stormed a school and massacred 145 innocent people, of whom 132 were children. By the time the siege ended in the evening, military officials said all seven militants were dead. It's unclear whether they were killed by soldiers or they detonated their explosives. The casualty tolls don't include the terrorists. All this was done in the name of religion? Which religion teaches its followers to kill innocent women and children, I wonder.

It's nothing to do with Islamic teachings or anything even related to any religion. It is the ego and maniacal interpretation of a group of fanatics that brought out the worst in this group of people. In this Christmas season, our prayers go to those who have lost loved ones and who have to carry on with their lives. And to also find it in their hearts to know the difference between the peaceful Muslims who practice their faith in harmony and respect, and those who have demonised themselves in the name of their religion.

This month, we feature a rather drab and sombre-coloured butterfly, in keeping with the mood of the past few weeks. The Chocolate Pansy (Junonia hedonia ida) is a common butterfly in Singapore, and is widely distributed across the island - from urban green areas to the forested nature reserves; from the coastal habitats to the tops of our hills.

The species is reddish brown above and features a prominent row of eyespots on both wings. The underside is usually a lighter brown with obscure purple bands across both wings. The ocelli on the underside are lighter and more orange. The median band on the underside of the wings is a poor attempt at giving some semblance of mimicking a leaf when the butterfly is at rest with its wings folded upright.

The Chocolate Pansy has a flap-glide flight but is extremely skittish and not easy to photograph. Being a common butterfly, it tends to get ignored by butterfly watchers and photographers. It has a habit of staying at a location with a few favoured perches, and then 'attacking' any intruders into its domain.

On hot sunny days, it can be seen flying amongst low shrubbery and then stopping on the top sides of leaves with its wings spread open to sunbathe. At other times, it stops with its wings folded upright at rest, displaying its undersides with the orange coloured ocelli.

The closely-related species up north in Malaysia, Junonia iphita horsfieldi is given the name Chocolate Soldier in this region, although this species is also called Chocolate Pansy in other South Asian countries where Junonia hedonia ida does not fly. This may give rise to some confusion in the common name, where two different species are called by a single common name.

The caterpillar host plant of the Chocolate Pansy are two common plants from the Acanthaceae family, namely Ruellia repens and Hemigraphis reptans. The full life history has been recorded successfully in Singapore and the details can be found here.

And so 2014 has almost come to an end, and in our next blog article next Saturday, we will look back at the year and summarise the key events that made up an eventful year for ButterflyCircle.

We would like to take this opportunity to wish all our readers a Merry Christmas!

Text by Khew SK : Photos by Sunny Chir, Huang CJ, Khew SK, Bobby Mun, Horace Tan and Anthony Wong