Weekly Series
Nature Weekly
Short Notes on Nature Singapore

15 February 2015 | Butterfly Host Plant | Pink Wampee (Clausena excavata) |

photo photo I first saw this lone caterpillar from the Swallowtail Family (Papilioninae) during my tracking toward the Tree Top Walk in April 2014. It was on a leaflet from a young Pink Wampee (Clausena excavata). The natural thing for me to do was to try to figure out its identity. I looked up the Butterfly Circle website, but the available caterpillar pictures of the different species in this family look rather similar. Furthermore, the host plant (Pink Wampee) was not listed in the host plant list in the website. Without additional clue, this observation was shelved.

photo photo photo Last Sunday, I finally got the answer. While doing my routine exploration in the little park near my place, I saw a butterfly fluttering around a young Pink Wampee, looking for a host plant to lay its eggs. It happened to be the Common Mormon (Papilio polytes romulus), a butterfly from the Swallowtail Family. I waited for it to complete its designated task, visually taking note on where it placed the eggs. While waiting, I managed to snap a picture of the butterfly in the air. Though the picture was quite blurry, it was sufficient to reveal the identity of the butterfly. When it was gone, I moved in to examine the plant closely. There were two small shiny yellowish eggs on the plant at 2 different locations, both positioned on the younger leaflets. Yesterday, I returned to check on the eggs yesterday, there were at least 5 small caterpillars on that Pink Wampee. The butterfly must have come round to lay more eggs after I left.

photo Common Mormon is a regularly seen native butterfly in this park. In December 2012, I had the fortune chance to witness a mating pair in this same park and even had the rare opportunity to take several pictures of them in close range.

Coming back to the host plant, the leaves of the young Pink Wampee looked very similar to that of the Curry Leaf plant (Murraya koenigii). While Curry Leaf plant is often cultivated for its pungent leaves and rarely survive well in the wild, Pink Wampee is a relatively common wild tree found in the forest or wild places, with pink matured fruits. Both are from the citrus family (Rutaceae). The two plants can be easily confused. It might be possible that the Pink Wampee is being reported as the Curry Leaf plant, and thereby treated as the host plant of this butterfly. Except for the white Tortise Beetle (Silana farinosa) that devoured the Curry Leaf plant, I had yet to see a caterpillar on it.

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