Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Hang in There!!!

So besides Mutie and the Black-Pupa, it seems all my other cats are pupating very beautifully!!! I think they even appreciate the "natural" setup I've made for them involving natural branches and twigs collected from around and about the University.

There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you its going to be a butterfly.

Monday, May 30, 2011


Hey guys!

So this is more of a short update than anything else but well, how often is it we come across freaks in nature? Anyway, I want you to take a close look at the following creature;

Not quite a caterpillar, not quite a butterfly... not even a chrysalis but a freakish mix of both. Yes, what you see here is one of those sad moments where mother nature chooses to naturally weed out the weak. I'm not sure what caused it, but somewhere during its transformation, the hormones the caterpillar produces as it transforms from one stage of its life to another was cut off resulting in a half-way transformation; an amalgam of sorts of all three of those creatures. It's really a piteous sight to behold because I really don't think a chrysalid as deformed as this will ever make it... it's even exposed on some parts. To make matters worse, though most of it is chrysalid, it seems to have its caterpillar mind still somewhere inside of it as it keeps wriggling about in the most unsightly fashion. I shudder to think what an existence would be like... not very pleasant I suppose. Anyway, Ray has taken quite a liking to the poor thing and he's even named the little guy Mutie. Well, I'm sorry to be cynical but... try not to get too attached, Ray!!! Mutie might not be with us on the mortal coil for much longer.

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Atlas Moth Larvae

Hey guys!

So lately out of sure fortune perhaps, a friend of mine William stumbled upon a rather large and intimidating looking larva which he then left in my care. It didn't take me long to recognise the larva for what it was; the young of one of the largest lepidoptera species (in terms of wing area) in the world!!! The Atlas Moth, attacus atlas. 

Fatty McFat-fats!!! :P 
With Ray's index finger for size-comparison
Unfortunately for me, it doesn't seem to be doing very much these few days which gets me a little bit anxious and worried as to whether it might be sick, or even dying. That would be unfortunate really as I was greatly desiring to add the attacus atlas as a part of my collection. Another interesting fact about this magnificent moth, largest of the lepidoptereans they may be, Atlas Moths do not possess developed mouthparts as adults and consequently do not feed. Instead, their short lives of about 2 weeks or so is fueled entirely by the fat reserves they have stored in their bodies as larvae (explains the intimidating size of the caterpillar doesn't it?). To conserve energy, females rarely fly, instead they hang from tall, breezy areas to release a pheremone which can be detected by and attracts males from up to several kilometers away! Some collecters and breeders have even exploited this in order to attract more male moths to mate with their females by simply placing the females outside in a ventilated cage. But let's not count our chickens before they are hatched...first the caterpillar should simply survive!

Atlas moths @ Penang Butterfly Farm
Wow! I've never blogged so much in such a long time!!! Till the next post then... CIAOZ de MAOZ

Mmmmm~ this is the life.

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Giant Honey Bee

Hey guys!

So I've got Ray over here and we're supposed to be working but seeing as to how I've got this splitting headache and things I carelessly left in my University I decided to take a short break (and I swear this post won't take more than five minutes of my time) to blog about some very interesting sights I've come across within the past few days. First of all, take a look at this;

What is that??? Take a closer look! 
Yes, my friends that is exactly what it looks like. That is a swarm of giant honey bees, Apis Dorsata. The giant honey bee is unique, unlike other forms of bees which nest in tree-hollows or holes in the ground as they build their hives high up in the canopy of tall trees, exposed to all the dangers of predators and the elements. In fact if if you were to look closely at the picture, the entire cluster of bees, body to body, make up the entirety of the hive itself! Some thousands of insects, all clinging to each other to create a protective wall around the precious honeycombs containing the sweet, liquid gold and their matriarch, the Queen. But perhaps one might ponder as to the reason these bees take such liberties with their nesting. Surely an enclosed cavity would provide better protection for the bees against the elements. And the reason for this is simple, that Apis Dorsata is a highly aggressive species of bees, and provoking the nest... could be catastrophic. Stinging, however is a very costly form of defense for the hive as it results in a decline in the number of bees (a bee cannot survive without its sting) and so, to deter off predators, these bees have a very interesting method of defending themselves known as "defense waving". In defense waving, the bees thrust their abdomens upwards at a ninetly degree angle, followed by a stroking of their wings, in a systematic manner. The resulting effect is an outward ripple originating from a central point in the hive, spreading outwards in mesmerizing patterns not unlike an audience wave at a sport's stadium, take a look.

This is pretty neat, right? And something that can intimidate Sir David Attenborough into wearing a bee-suit is definitely a creature we need to respect. Unfortunately for the colony I spotted, the nesting site they chose was in the middle of the University Carpark causing them, therefore, to pose somewhat of a health-hazard and a threat considering the number of disrespectful (towards nature) students we have around which might inadvertantly provoke the bees with a stone toss or something of the like causing a small-scale catastrophe... the authorities had to be alerted, therefore and the bees were eventually... dealt with. It's a pity though, since they were probably only migrating from one point to another... being the insect-lover though I couldn't quite help myself. Specimens needed to be collected, and after some careful reconnaissance during an early morning shower...

Voilla!!! Be in a Bottle.
It's really a pity I suppose, because the open nest was truly a sight to behold... and even Ray couldn't hold back his curiosity and awe to keep from stepping up close and under the nest though I cautioned him, and other bystanders to be extremely careful and quiet and 'small' when they do so. For me and Ray though, I had my car parked on close hand so should the situation get nasty, a quick getaway was always possible... to everyone else... sorry but you should have thought about it before coming up close... anyway, nobody got hurt from the incident (not even me, after my bee-napping) and I regret to inform that the hive has since been unjustly "dealt with". I suppose this is one of those situations which really portray those sad and unfortunate moments when nature inexplicably clashes with the man-made world... unfortunate because bees are extremely helpful... and knowing some students....there was really no choice but to be rid of them (although personally I'd disagree, I suppose keeping students from getting stung is higher up the administrative office's agenda than the benefits of bees)


Thursday, May 26, 2011

It's been about a week since I first got my largest batch of babies just yet and already some of them have begun to go into the next stage of their life-cycles.

Sad to say, not all of them made it... I'm not sure what's up with this chrysalid (it's still alive as it wriggles around occasionally) but I have never in my life seen the tarry black substance its excreting near the top... will the butterfly be okay, you think, or might it be a strain of a virus and should I remove it entirely? Suggestions, opinions... information, all would be welcome.

Mutant Chrysalid.
So far they seem to be mostly chrysalids of the Lime Swallowtail but I'm hoping there will be some Common Mormons and Great Mormons in the mix as well. Oh well, only time will tell!

And we were buried, deep beneath the ground... and eventually they forgot us.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


Entomophobia - a common fear of or aversion to insects and similar arthropods,

Insects really have it bad.. when they're not being yelled at, they're being stomped, or squished, or swatted or sprayed... and all for what... because of their misunderstood nature... because... people don't know how amazing they really are. Or... or maybe they do... maybe they just don't care. Maybe its just because of their ferocious appearances... the ever-too-many-legs and the shifty way they scuttle across the linoleum counter-top or beat their leathery, scale-laden wings against our florescent lights. Maybe its just the idea that they creep within the dirt, the bowels of the earth through the rotting vegetation of peat... Its unfortunate really, because even insects that grow to be beautiful, wonderful things with magnificent wings often start their lives out as these despised and feared creatures... but at least they outgrow their ugliness...molt after molt after molt until one day, the beautiful lepidoptera emerges.  I guess beauty IS really only skin deep.... some 5 to 6 layers of it. Insects... after plants and vegetation, the world's existence lies solely in their hands and yet most of us would crush them beneath our heels without so much as a blink...without so much as a stab of remorse... but I guess its a tough world we live in... and no matter what anyone may say, that's just the nature of people... of humans.. And I suppose things don't get any easier for you, when you have a face only a mother... well, a father, could love... 

My poor babies. Poor, poor babies, I won't let them hurt you. 

Monday, May 23, 2011

Coping with Stress

Hey guys!

Just hitting ya'll up with a quickie from my work station!!! So, basically I never usually check my official Monash Email (or my other email... to be honest so if you really need to reach me urgently I'd suggest hitting me up on facebook or sending me a text cuz Goddess knows I carry my iPhone everywhere with me) and when I did I realized that our esteemed senior anthropologist Dr. Yeoh had just emailed to us the pictures from the Honours Seminar Series where I presented a few weeks ago. How awful it was to find out then that all the shots of me turned out pretty darn nasty and typically if I didn't look like I was about to go to bed it looked more like I was not paying attention or something. Sighs oh well... but there was this ONE shot that turned out pretty good though and I like how it seems like I'm musing over what Theresa is saying, so deep in my thoughts...
Cool right! And I also like it cuz its taken in my best lighting... semi, or dim. :P
So basically yeah, that's pretty much all in a day's work for me over here... that and, of course, writing up the various chapters of my thesis and other papers that are demanded of me. But you would think that with all that stress I don't have much time to do other things for myself but the truth is, its all about not forgetting why you live your life. Work is inevitable, yes. I'm not saying don't do nothing at all... but rather, dont' forget why you work... to enjoy life. Really there's no point working ureself to death unless you're gonna get a kick out of it and what works for me is keeping my little pleasures close by. For me this is literally.

Artemis Cage
Look how big she's grown! With wing buds and everything!

But the most pleasure I get out of observing my little girl... is when she eats. She's a natural hunter, she is (hence the name Artemis) and I don't know what it is that's so therepeutic about watching her bite off the head of a struggling beetle or larvae... I guess its just the sadism in all of us. Anyway, that's all I got for now. Till next time. CIAO

Saturday, May 21, 2011


Come on babies...

Grow for daddy...

Just day 4 and look how much they've grown. Look how big they've grown! Its truly amazing the way the life-cycle of insects are compressed into such a short amount of time. Life-cycles in days, generations in months. It's like an entire evolutionary history contained within the matter of a few days. Its no wonder that insects are so adaptable, its no wonder they evolve so quickly... in a strange way insects, as a species have exploited the short lives nature has given them to grow stronger, better and more resistant with each generation. And because their generations are produced in such a short span of time, they are able to adapt faster and more efficiently than any other living creature on this planet. They're truly amazing. My babies.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Return of the Rajah

Hey guys!

So its been pretty much as easy as the weeks have been going and since I have the time right now, I figured to myself, why not write a post or two just to keep things going. Besides, Sharon always told me that its good to just keep writing, whatever is on your mind, to just write it down if only to keep in the momentum of being a good writer. Anyway I did something exciting today and that is, I got my key-card authorized, and while it may sounds really boring for most of you its really quite a big deal because now I will finally be able to 'beep' myself in and out of my office without taking the unnecessarily long way of going up 6 flights of stairs via the fire escape but there you go. On another note, though my poke'walker (which is really a pedometer) has never registered so many steps in my life! Up and down everyday, every morning. In fact, this is us here collecting berries as the sun-rises....
no... really.
All in all though, things have been pretty much been going uphill ever since. I've got the Honours paper seminar out of the way, passed up the first draft of my works in progress paper, been having a good feeling about my research proposal and basically been spending almost 90% of my time with my favourite and most loved people so that helps with the management of stress too, I suppose. I mean, when we're all stressing together its not really a stressful situation if you know what I mean. Must be the sadistic in all of us that enjoy watching our peers suffer alongside! But I digress. I started blogging today really, to talk about some of my latest butterfly specimens (found, no less!!!) which is really quite a catch because in a strange coincidence a fellow lepidopterist just raised it to me the other week that May is a good month for butterflies... well, why don't you take a look at these beauties and be the judge for yourself....

Rajah brooke birdwing in resting position in display case.
Rajah brooke birdwing and Kallima sp. being spread

Unfortunately for me, the butterflies were found already in varying states of dead-ness so by the time I got to them things were already starting to fall off... legs, antennae... heads... but oh well, their wings still look pretty much in order and that's what really counts I suppose when I stick them up on my display wall. On a separate note, Ray (who stayed over the past few days) and I managed to find a large haul of caterpillars in my garden of the lime butterfly, common mormon and possibly a great mormon... my largest haul yet and I cannot be sure (as I have not quite counted them all yet) but there must be at least 20-30 of them! But no worries I'll do a head-count when I get back later today and take their individual pictures and data. But for now... its OFF TO LUNCH as the monster in my abdomen has begun to growl for food and sustenance!!!!

Smile, though your heart is aching. Smile even though its breaking.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Pins and Needles 9: Butterflies of the Garden Variety

Hey ya'll

so basically its been a really long time since I last updated but finally, now that my research seminar is over, I can finally take some time off to myself to blog a little bit about what's new with me. First of all, a little re-cap, things have been going pretty well for the past month or so (despite the enormity of the workload) and as we draw to the third week of May, we've finally come to the end of the semester for the class I teach every weekend. I must say, all of our little children have matured by leaps and bounds. They just sat for their final exam last Saturday and I must say I am very impressed at the way many of them have improved in terms of their usage of the English language. In that way, I believe the drama session has helped them with applying the new words they've learnt within the context of conversation. It's a momentous occasion; by little chrysalids are all developing into full-fledged butterflies. Speaking of butterflies, whilst swinging about the forest canopy at the Skytrex in Bukit Cahaya, Shah Alam, Ray and I managed to spot many interesting forms of wildlife including monkeys, scale-insects and even a flying-lizard!

just regular tree-swinging folk

All in all it was an awesome trip and, I suppose if I ever need to sit in a tree to prevent it from being cut down by nasty nasty loggers in the future, I'd know how! The other thing I got up to this month was to organize my Lycaenidae collection. Lycaenid butterflies are extremely hard to spread and mount, presumably because of their small size and well, I will admit that I'm not exactly the most delicate of persons in the way I deal with things so, as you can imagine, amongst my dozens of lycaenid specimens there will be some that exhibit various missing body parts, like broken legs and popped-off heads. But then again, as a friend of mine told me "leg's and other body parts do not generally count during the appraisal of specimens" but... oh well. Anyway, he's got a rather awesome collection of specimens himself... possibly lightyears more impressive than the butterflies of the garden-variety which I usually collect.

The miniature parade!!!

On a separate note, I'll be making a trip to Kota Kinabalu, Sabah later in the year with Ray and a bunch of friends so... who knows what kind of butterflies we'll find there!!! Till next time.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Oh What Have You Done!

Hey ya'll!!!

I was cleaning out my mantis cage earlier today (you should take a look at my latest baby, Artemis, and how big she's getting) and I couldn't help but notice the leftover butterfly-head from one of her victims lately (yes, I sometimes feed my babies to my other babies...) anyway, it seemed like the right thing to do so I plucked a couple of leaves and tried to get artsy with it....

And there it is!!! My little macabre leaf-butterfly!!! Hmm maybe I should stick some paper-clip wires in it and run some electricity through its circuit... maybe I'll create some form of strange frankenstein-ish butterfly! Oh well, that's my blog-post quickie for the day! Catch ya'll later!!!