The Cycad Blue and its nectarine plant, the Sweet Basil

posted in: Butterflies and Moths, Fauna | 1

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

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