Painted Jezebel: 1. Post-eclosion behaviour

I managed to save a pupa of the Painted Jezebel (Delias hyparete metarete) attached to a detached leaf of the semi-parasitic mistletoe Dendrophthoe pentandra, its host plant. The leaf was placed in a plastic container and regularly monitored. Unfortunately I missed the moment of eclosion. The butterfly was then by its empty pupal case with its wings fully extended (above, image from another documentation).

The wilted leaf to which the pupal case was attached to was accordingly clamped so that I could document the post-eclosion phase. The butterfly was clinging to the dead leaf. With an unusually strong wind blowing then, it eventually fell onto the tabletop. Crawling along, it landed on the floor. It’s weak, low flight brought it to a grassy patch. There, it moved about clumsily, exposing the dull, black and white of the upper wings (above) that contrasted strongly with the colourful white, black, yellow and orange-red of the under wings (top).

The plentiful small, resident Grass Blue (Zizina sp.) butterflies of the short grass habitat appeared to irritate the recently eclosed Painted Jezebel that reacted jerkily whenever contacts were made (above and video below).

Khew Sin Khoon of Butterfly Circle LINK believes that the small butterflies were most probably Lesser Grass Blue (Zizina otis lampa).

According to Sin Khoon, “An interesting behaviour, no doubt. During eclosion, a butterfly secretes fluids. …The function of the fluid has been postulated in many sites – from acting as a lubricant to expelling by-products of its last meal to discharging fluid from the metamorphosis process. This fluid, known as meconium, may be the source that attracts the Grass Blues.

“This organic matter, upon drying out, may have attracted the Grass Blues, as they have been observed to puddle on decomposing organic matter. For larger butterflies (like the Common Birdwing that I’ve bred), I noticed that upon exposure to air, this meconium and residual fluid from the eclosion process, tends to emit an odour that may smell rather putrid. Perhaps this is something that had attracted the Grass Blues to the newly eclosed Painted Jezebel.

“Just my personal postulation, after watching the behaviour in your video.”

Well, finally, after nearly an hour after eclosion, the wings were strong enough to allow the Painted Jezebel to fly off from the ground.

YC Wee & Khew Sin Khoon
Singapore
March 2015

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