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!


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