Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Life Cycle of Common Jay (Graphium doson)

A butterfly seen quite often in Bangalore. The larval host plant for this species is Michelia champaka or the Sampige tree.

The egg was found on 27th December 2012.

It hatched on 30th December 2012. This is how it appeared a few hours before hatching:

After hatching the caterpillar measured 2mm. It scratched the surface of the leaves and moved around very slowly.

After the first moult on 3rd January 2013 (day 5), the hairy structures disappeared. The caterpillar's jaws became stronger, as it does with each moult, and the caterpillar began consuming the leaves at a faster rate. Length measurement: 4mm.

The second moult took place on 5th Jan 2013 (day 7). Head cap size increased considerably, and the ventral side became pure white in colour. The caterpillar moved about with greater speed when compared to the earlier instar. One peculiarity is that the caterpillar also walks backwards quite often. The projections on the head part in the last instar, were completely absent in this one. There were absolutely no hairy structures on the caterpillar. The surface was soft and rubbery-textured. On 6th Jan (day 8), it measured 11mm.

The caterpillar moulted again on 10th Jan, 2013 (day 12). This is the final instar of the caterpillar. Measured 30mm just after moulting. This moult changed it's appearance completely. A very prominent "eye" spot on the neck region of the caterpillar. The head size increased, and so did the eating speed. In this instar, the caterpillar ate about 15-20 square centimetres of leaf surface per day. In all the instars, the caterpillar ate only tender leaves and not matured ones. This was few hours after the third moult:

Appearance of the caterpillar on Jan 11th (day 13). Measurement 42mm.

It formed a cremaster and the silken thread (attained pre-pupa stage) on Jan 14th (day 16). It pupated on Jan 15th, sometime during the night. Photograph of the pupa taken on 16th Jan (day 18).

On Jan 28th night, the pupa turned transparent and the wings could be seen. Appearance of the pupa on Jan 29th (day 32) few minutes before the butterfly emerged:

The adult butterfly emerged at 11:05am.

This is a female, as the bursa copulatrix can be seen here:

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Life Cycle of Commander (Moduza procris)

This is quite an uncommon butterfly in Bangalore. Nevertheless, it can most definitely be seen in certain places during the post monsoon and winter seasons. Lalbagh and JP Nagar reserve forest are known to be Commander habitat. The larval host plants for this butterfly are: Neolamarckia cadamba, Cadaba fructiosa, Hedyotis orixense, Mitragyna parvifolia, Mussaenda frondosa, Ochreinauclea missionis, Wendlandia exserta, and W. thyrsoidea.
The caterpillar, in its last instar, found on 10th January 2013. It was feeding on Mussaenda frondosa. This plant has soft hairy leaves, and blooms pinkish red flowers. Grown as ornamental in most gardens.

A beautifully camouflaged caterpillar this is, chestnut coloured with brown and black blotches.

It wandered about the container endlessly for a day after it stopped consuming any leaves on 11th January. Instead of the usual dry and spherical excretions, it was semi solid and moist. It created webs everywhere it wandered.

It formed a cremaster on 12th January and pupated sometime during the night. This is the pre-pupa stage, after cremaster formation. Length of caterpillar in this stage: 31mm

The pupa measuring 23mm, on 13th January, 3:30pm:

Ventral side

Dorsal side
The pupa turned dark and transparent on 22nd January, and the adult emerged at 10:20am on 23rd January.  The pupa stage therefore lasted 11 days.
Emergence of the butterfly:

The adult emerges by pushing the pupal case with its proboscis.

The wings are intricately folded inside the pupa. They are wet and dripping with excess fluid. It is this fluid that imparts colours to the butterfly's wing scales.

After emerging, it is essential that the butterfly gets to hang down from something, so that gravity does its job of straightening out the veins before the wings dry. Sometimes, the wings might not dry in the right position, causing the butterfly to be unable to fly. The wings are partially stretched out and the butterfly is still wet here:

Wings have completely dried and the butterfly is taking its time before deciding to display its flashy red upper side..

 Few minutes after emerging, the layers of the proboscis are not yet aligned:

Behold, Moduza procris, the upper side. Wingspan of this individual, was 65mm.

A close up of the genitalia of this beautiful male:

The empty pupal case:

The beautiful underside of the adult male:

He was released in a good place which is known to have populations of his own kind, and it was an absolute joy watching his jerky flight as he disappeared into the thickets!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Life Cycle of Common Jezebel (Delias eucharis)

The larva of the Common Jezebel feeds on Loranthus. This caterpillar was found in its last instar on 27th December 2012, thanks to GS Girish Kumar! There were five caterpillars in all, and they constructed a lot of webs and silken threads, for no apparent reason, inside the container in which they were raised. It was unlike most other caterpillars I have raised, because they web around only during the time of pupation.

It pupated on 3rd January 2013. Freshly formed pupa and the caterpillar's last moult:

Pupa, night before eclosion:

Adult male, after emergence:

Adult male, upper side:

Adult female, upper side:

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Life Cycle of Gaudy Baron (Euthalia lubentina)

Two caterpillars were found at Jalahalli last month, Nitin and I raised one each. They feed on Loranthus. Special thanks to Ashok Sengupta sir and Girish!

The caterpillars were in their initial instars when collected from the field. Image clicked on 4th December 2012:

Later, after two weeks, they had gained mass and length. Image by Nitin:

The pupa, few days after pupation:
Ventral view
Lateral view

 The adult butterfly, after eclosion. This individual turned out to be a female.

The butterfly is wet soon as it emerges. It takes a while to dry. Here are a few close ups of the butterfly while it was still in the process of drying up! Liquid dripping from the abdomen:

The vacant pupal case:

Time taken for the metamorphosis since it was found: 32 days
It was probably around 10 days old at the time it was found, and so we can round it off to 42 days, approximate length life cycle.

Happy butterflying!