Thursday, January 5, 2012

Helena's Birdwing (Troides helena)

Hey ya'll!!!

It's been a most rejuvenating one month and I daresay the break was much needed. But now that it's over I feel refreshed and quite ready to come back and get the blog in order although, I must say that I appreciate your kind sentiments over the week regarding some of my more insightful blog posts, as well as Ray's light-hearted attempts at entertaining your senses. In the meantime, one month away means I've had tons of specimens piling up and lots of things I would like to share, but as I am getting many of those specimens in order, perhaps you will permit me to share this magnificent butterfly I've only started to spread today.

Helena's birdwing butterfly (Troides helena)
Now if you've been a regular to my blog, I suppose you will realize from its striking yellow and black coloration that this butterfly is no stranger to my collection or even the species on my breeding list, but what made this specimen in particular so magnificent, I suppose, was her size! For many butterflies, the females are the larger of the two genders, often dwarfing the smaller (but usually brighter colored) males but this particular birdwing dwarfed even the other females of her species.

A picture of the butterfly in its "natural" resting position with my hand for size comparison. And, (not meaning to brag or boast), but I have fairly large hands.

After spreading her wings properly with tracing paper and pinning them down to dry, I  realized that she was almost as large as a small mask, the kind that covers only half of the face for a masquerade. Perhaps I'll take a picture of her against my face when she's done for a further size comparison! 
But speaking about birdwings, perhaps you may recall some posts back that Ray and I made a trip to the forest research institute of Malaysia (FRIM) some weeks ago to (among other things, insect related mostly) dip our feet into the waterfall... well, on our way out, as we were walking towards the canopy walkway, we stumbled upon a trellis upon which an aristolochiae (pipevine) was creeping. To my amusement, we found a large number of troides larvae feasting there and stayed there for a bit observing the prolific caterpillars for the first time in the wild.

Troides helena larvae. 

The caterpillars were not as agreeable to being 'disturbed' as the ones I raise back at home and many of them reacted defensively when I twisted the leaves to get better shots of them with my camera, inverting their foul-smelling omesteriums (the fleshy antenna-like organ behind their heads) as you can see in the picture above. I would have loved to harvest some pupae to add new genetic material to my own home-grown batch but all the ones we could find were already hatched and seeing as how many of the unhatched ones were infected by fungi thought it wise to leave them as they were instead. 

Troides helena pupae and ova (egg)
Anyway it was definitely quite an experience, because I always like to observe butterfly species that I raise at home in their natural habitats in the wild. It's not quite the same as looking at them in a tupperware or one of my plastic terrariums somehow. Perhaps, when Ray comes back from Hong Kong and we make another trip into the forest I'll pay the vine another visit and see how they are all doing.



ooi2009 said...

ur so thin ....

Cyren said...

Hahaha I only look thin, I actually weight quite a lot :(