Butterfly watch series 1: Butterfly Garden at HortPark (23/09/18)

Welcome back! This will be the first to a 🦋 series, as I take you through a tour inside the technicolored kingdom of these fairies 🧚🏼‍♀️🧚🏼‍♂️ In the next five months, I will be participating in an advanced butterfly watch workshop organized by NParks, and conducting monthly butterfly watches at a designated site. Get excited and come along with me! 🤗

A blue glassy tiger busking in the warm morning sun while feeding on nectar. Taken in Butterfly Garden, HortPark.

Butterflies share the insect order Lepidoptera with its humbly dressed relative: moths. They are characterized by the conspicuous pairs of fore and hind wings, painted with vibrant colours on their scales. These colours are either chemical (contributed by pigments such as melanin that gives rise to yellow and brown 💁🏾‍♀️), or structural in nature (due to various angles at which lights are reflected off the scales’ surface, giving rise to stunning iridescence 🌈).

Iridescent colours on Queen Alexandra’s birdwing. Credit to: https://animals.howstuffworks.com/insects/butterfly-colors.htm

Observation tips: conduct butterfly watch near your home!

Butterflies love the sun. As ectotherms / thermo-conformers, they change their blood and body temperature and metabolic rates in accordance with thermal changes the environment. On a sunny day, butterflies emerge out of their den to busk in order to restore heat as a form of energy, and become active in their flight, feeding and mating. This is also the reason why we see a sudden surge in the number of bees and butterflies in prime Spring, apart from the abundance of nectars and pollens to feast on.

** Prime time for butterfly watch: 9-3pm (all year round in tropical regions like Singapore, Spring and early summer in subtropical, marine and temperate climates) **

The common observation method for butterfly is the “walk” method. Observer takes a slow stroll along a path, at a speed of about 2-3m/min. The path length should be gauged to be covered in 45 minutes to 1 hour. When surveying, imagine yourself to be at the centre of a cube of 2-3 metres in radius: only note the species and count number of the butterflies within the scope of this cube. Be mindful not to repeat counting: the same butterfly may appear before your eyes again during your survey!

Butterfly garden is imbued with vibrant and fragrant flowers that attract pollinators such as bees, butterflies and sunbirds. A number of them produce edible fruits as well. The most abundant was grass yellows, small butterflies of length ~5cm that wander around bushes in twos or threes.

A common rose (Pachliopta aristolochiae) was also spotted, which later wandered higher into the tree canopies.

CR_adult_Sunny_03.jpg

Picture taken from Internet.

A big surprise was a giant butterfly whose identity remains unknown to us that greeted us among the flowers. Its birdwing spanned up to 20cm in breadth, with large, streamlined black forewings and smaller yellow hindwings. Its wings hinted a silky texture, as they kept on fluttering at a shocking frequency to keep the butterfly suspended in flight. My poorly magnified shot does not do justice to its beauty.

Upon preliminary research, I suspect this species to be a Malayan Birdwing. However, there are still some conspicuous differences between the two. Malayan Birdwing has pale yellow stripes on its forewings that this species lack, and the proportions of fore to hind wing does not match either. Please help me out with the name of this butterfly!

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Picture of female Malayan Birdwing. Credit to: http://butterflycircle.blogspot.com/2011/03/return-of-magnificent-giant.html

The unknown birdwing butterfly patronising a flower.

The same blue glassy tiger in flight.


If you have reached this section, I would like to extend to you my greatest gratitude for your interest and support for this blog! Please say hi and offer me some constructive feedback (I crave them!), and subscribe for more contents like this!

Now, a bit about the goings-on in my personal life! I am busy (not so much since I can still squeeze in time for this post haha) preparing for my upcoming promotional exams (in two days!!). As a philosophy student, I am currently reading “Philosophy of science” by Samir Okasha in the Very Short Introduction series by Oxford University Press. This is a thorough, succinct yet interesting introductory read for philosophy of science, about the nature of science and philosophical disputes about the scientific method. I recommend “This will make you smarter” edited by John Brockman as a bedtime read. This is a collection of philosophical thoughts from pioneer scientific minds of this generation. Every essay is only 2-4 pages in length, and prompts your thinking about a wide range of issues in science and the overarching metaphysical questions these scientists and philosophers are contemplating and discussing.

As for drama, I am watching “Hataraku Saibou” (Cells at work!), a Japanese anime series aimed at educating the public about the workings of our immune system. It covers the breadth of immunology and demonstrates complex mechanisms of immune cell network in a simple and engaging manner, such as Mast cells being activated to release histamine when excess IgE is produced by B cells. Definitely friendly for Bio-Amateurs! Above all, the cells are so kawaii desnei!!!!!!!!!!!

love thy nature (and life, and learning),Islina

One thought on “Butterfly watch series 1: Butterfly Garden at HortPark (23/09/18)

  1. A few tweaks to note: the name of the watch method is “pollard walk” to be exact. The transect (trail) length is usually kept to 200-400 metres and can be covered around 20 minutes. Again, the survey protocol varies across countries and climates. Here is a survey protocol from the UK for your reference: http://www.ukbms.org/Methods.aspx
    Pollard walk is not the only method to research butterflies, and may not be the most accurate in reflecting the true abundance of species. Other alternatives include capture-mark-recapture and count-index methods. Reference: https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0041396

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