Pale Grass Blue and its nectarine plant, the Sweet Basil

on 9th June 2014

The Pale Grass Blue (Zizeeria maha serica) is a small exotic butterfly that was discovered in Singapore in 2001. It has since spread to many parts of the main island. These butterflies appear in the early morning and remain around until late afternoon. They are more active and more are seen when the sun is out. The image above shows a pair locked in copulation perching on a flower of the Firecracker Plant (Russelia equisetiformis). They remain together for a few seconds before disconnecting and flying off.

These butterflies are attracted to the flowers of the Sweet Basil (Ocimun basilicum). They dart around chasing each other before landing on the flowers. Sometimes a pair may land on an inflorescence, each picking a flower to feed on (above).

Once on the flower, it’s coiled proboscis (above) uncoils and the tip probes deep into the flower (below). It may stay up to 25 seconds feeding on the nectar. But most times the visits are short, possibly because the nectar content has been depleted by earlier feedings.

The Pale Grass Blue lands on the flower with its wings folded but sometimes its wings may unfold to varying degrees to reveal the delicate design of the upper wing surfaces (see second image from top). When leaving the flower, it may also unfolds its wings slightly before flying off, but mostly it flies off without displaying the dorsal surface of the pair of wings.

The leaves of Sweet Basil give off a characteristic pleasant smell, especially when it is hot, and this may have attracted these butterflies. After all, they have a keen sense of smell.

The Sweet Basel, also attracts the Cycad Blue (Chilades pandava pandava) LINK.

YC Wee
May 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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