The Cycad Blue and its nectarine plant, the Sweet Basil

on 9th May 2014

The Cycad Blue (Chilades pandava pandava) is so named because its caterpillar host plants are the popular ornamentals: Sago Cycad (Cycas revolute) (above) and Malayan Fern Plant (C. rumphii). The eggs of Cycad Blue are laid on the young emerging fronds of these plants and the young caterpillars will soon destroy the emerging fronds, leaving the plants without any new growth, thus stunting it.

The butterfly is small and slow flying, with a pair of delicate elegant tails (above). This pair of tails, together with the prominent black spot just below, help to fool predators into attacking the butterfly at the wrong end, thus allowing it to escape alive.

In the late morning till the afternoon, especially when the sun is shining, half a dozen or more Cycad Blue can be seen flying around the nectarine plant, the Sweet Basil (Ocimun basilicum). One, sometimes two, land on the same inflorescence, seeking out the flowers to feed on the nectar.

The Cycad Blue lands mostly on the flower with its wings folded. Once in a while one may land of the upper surface of the leaf, to soon fly off to a flower. It stays a few seconds or longer feeding on the nectar, probably depending on the nectar content of the flower. After all, these butterflies visit the same flowers over and over again. On the flower, the coiled proboscis uncoils to have the tip inserted into the flower (above).

When leaving the flower, it may unfold its wings slightly to reveal the delicate design and colours of the upper wing surfaces before flying off (above), but mostly it flies off without such display.

The Sweet Basel emits a distinct aroma when one gets close to the leaves. This definitely attracts the Cycad Blue, as the sense of smell in butterflies is well developed. These smell receptors are located in the antennae, feet and other parts of the body.

YC Wee
April 2014

If you like this post please tap on the Like button at the left bottom of page. Any views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the authors/contributors, and are not endorsed by the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM, NUS) or its affiliated institutions. Readers are encouraged to use their discretion before making any decisions or judgements based on the information presented.

YC Wee

Dr Wee played a significant role as a green advocate in Singapore through his extensive involvement in various organizations and committees: as Secretary and Chairman for the Malayan Nature Society (Singapore Branch), and with the Nature Society (Singapore) as founding President (1978-1995). He has also served in the Nature Reserve Board (1987-1989), Nature Reserves Committee (1990-1996), National Council on the Environment/Singapore Environment Council (1992-1996), Work-Group on Nature Conservation (1992) and Inter-Varsity Council on the Environment (1995-1997). He is Patron of the Singapore Gardening Society and was appointed Honorary Museum Associate of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM) in 2012. In 2005, Dr Wee started the Bird Ecology Study Group. With more than 6,000 entries, the website has become a valuable resource consulted by students, birdwatchers and researchers locally and internationally. The views and opinions expressed in this article are his own, and do not represent those of LKCNHM, the National University of Singapore or its affiliated institutions.

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