Which subspecies of Ancyra Blue exists in Singapore?

December 2016

Mr. Teo T. P. has been studying butterflies of Singapore and West Malaysia for many decades. During this time, he has gathered a thorough knowledge of identification features that can be used to differentiate cryptic species and subspecies. In this post, Mr. Teo examines the known subspecies of Ancyra Blue (Catopyrops ancyra) from Southeast to understand which subspecies might we have in Singapore.

Why now? Ancyra Blue is a recent discovery in Singapore, first recorded in 2004 at Pulau Ubin. The butterfly has since become relatively common and spotted regularly from multiple locations in the central catchment forests as well as the southern and western parts of Singapore. Since the discovery of Ancyra Blue, some of us naively thought that the subspecies found in Singapore may be the same subspecies “aberrans” as found in Malaysia. Mr. Teo demonstrates why this may not be the case. 

Figure 1. Uppersides of Catopyrops ancyra males Singapore & Malaysian subsp.

Figure 2. Undersides of Catopyrops ancyra Singapore & Malaysian subsp.

Photo credits: Mr. Teo T. P.

Figure 1 and 2 compare the uppersides and undersides of Singaporean and Malaysian Catopyrops ancyra subspecies (marked with numbers 1 to 7), which correspond with different features mentioned below. The differences suggest that the subspecies of C. ancyra found in Singapore is not “aberrans“.

(Aberrations:  FW = forewing,      HW = hindwing,      Up = upperside,    Un = underside,    subsp. = subspecies).


(1) Singapore subsp. is bluer and while the Malaysian subspecies “aberrans” is more purplish. Also, the Singapore subsp. is smaller in size.

(2) The black border on termen of the UpFW is broader for Malaysian subsp. and narrower for Singapore subsp.

(3) On the UpHW of “aberrans“, the marginal black spots in spaces 3, 4 and 5 are obvious; these spots are trace markings or obscured for Singapore subspecies.


(4) Almost all the post-discal, cell-end and sub-discal striae that outlined with white on both wings are darker (beige) colour in “aberrans” and same as the ground for Singapore subsp.

(5) The submarginal arrow headed markings on UnFW are more defined in Malaysian subsp. than the Singapore race.

(6) UnHW post-discal spot in space 2 is more or less in line with spot in space 1b for “aberrans” and dislocated (or shifted inwardly) for Singapore subsp.

(7) UnHW the subtornal black spots in spaces 1b and 2 more orange crowned for Malaysian subsp. than Singapore subsp., particularly the one in space 2.


Mr. Teo also compiled the 16 known subspecies of Catopyrops ancyra for reference. Since 1938, Dr. A. S. Corbet reported C. ancyra aberrans is rare in Malaya, it remains a rarely seen butterfly in Malaysia today.

Table 1. Catopyrops ancyra subspecies recorded in Southeast Asia

References used in Table 1:

1. Braby M. F. (2000). Butterflies of Australia – Their identification, biology & distribution volumes 1 & 2, 1008pp, CSIRO Publishing.

2. Cassidy, A. C. (1985). An enlarged checklist of Brunei butterflies (Lepidoptera: Rhopalocera) including descriptions of one new species and one new subspecies. The Brunei Museum Journal vol. 6 (1-3) : 135-168.

3. Cassidy, A. C. (1990). On Nacaduba and allied genera (Lepidoptera, Lycaenidae) from the Sulawesi region. Tyó to Ga, vol. 41(4) : 227-241.

4. Corbet, A. S. (1938). A revision of the Malayan species of the Nacaduba group of genera (Lepidoptera: Lycaenidae). Transactions of the Royal Entomological Society of London vol. 87(5) : 125-146.

5. Corbet, A. S. & H. M. Pendlebury (1992). The Butterflies of the Malay Peninsula, 4th edition revised by J. N. Eliot. 595pp. Malayan Nature Society.

6. D’Abrera B. (1986). Butterflies of the Oriental region, part III: Lycaenidae & Riodinidae. p536-672. Hill House, Melbourne, Australia.

7. Evans, W. H. (1932). The identification of Indian butterflies. 454pp. The Bombay Natural History Society.

8. Fleming W. A. (1983). Butterflies of West Malaysia & Singapore. 2nd edition revised by Alix McCartney. 148pp. Longman Malaysia Sdn. Bhd.

9. Itioka T., Yamamoto, T., Tzuchiya T., Okubo T., Yago, M. Seki Y., Ohshima Y., Katsuyama R.., Chiba H. & O. Yata. (2009). Butterflies collected in and around Lambir Hills National Park, Sarawak, Malaysia in Borneo. Contributions from the Biological Laboratory of Kyoto University vol. 30 (1) : 25-68.

10. Kimura Y., T. Aoki, S. Yamaguchi, Y. Uémura & T. Saito. (2014). The Butterflies of Thailand  – Based on Yunosuke Kimura Collection, volume 2 – Lycaenidae, 245pp.  Mokuyosha, Japan.

11. Lu C. C. & Y. F., Hsu. (2002). Catopyrops ancyra almora, a lycaenid butterfly new to Taiwan: a case of biological invasion from the Philippines. BioFormosa vol. 37 (1) : 25-30.

12. Miyazaki, S., T. Saito, K. Kishi & K. Saito. (2010). Notes on the butterflies of the southern part of Vietnam (7). Yadoriga No. 226 : 18-41.

13. Monastyrskii, A. L. & A. L. Devyatkin (2015). Butterflies of Vietnam  – An illustrated checklist, 2nd ed . Hanoi,  Planorama Media Co. Ltd

14. Parsons, M. (1999). The Butterflies of Papua New Guinea – Their systematics & biology, 736pp, Academic Press.

15. Pinratana, Bro. A. (1981). Butterflies of Thailand, volume 4 – Lycaenidae. 215pp. Viratham Press.

16. Pisuth, Ek-Amnuay (2012). Butterflies of Thailand, 2nd  revised edition, 941pp. Amarin Printing & Pub. Co.

17. Seki, Y., Y. Takanami & K. Otsuka (1991). Butterflies of Borneo volume 2, no. 1 – Lycaenidae. 113pp. Tobishima Corporation, Japan.

18. Tennent, W. J. (2002). Butterflies of the Solomon Islands  – Systematics & biogeography. 413pp. Storm Entomological Publ.

19. Tite, G. E. (1963). A synonymic list of the genus Nacaduba and allied genera. Bulletin of the British Museum (Natural History), Entomology, vol. 13, No. 4 : 67-116.  

20. Vane-Wright, R. I. & R. de Jong (2003). The Butterflies of Sulawesi : Annotated checklist for a critical island fauna. Zoologische  Verhandelingen  Leiden , vol. 343: 1-267.




Butterfly Interest Group is now Butterfly & Insect Group!

Effective 18th Nov 2014, Butterfly Interest Group is now known as Butterfly & Insect Group. The acronym however remains as BIG.

Anuj Jain, chairperson of BIG felt that this new name is timely and epitomises the subgroup’s activities as of now and what it wants to achieve in the coming years. As of now, the subgroup already has projects with insects other than butterflies, namely dragonflies, damselflies and moths (e.g, A pocket guide to dragonflies of Singapore, iNaturalist based moth monitoring project).

There is still a lot more from the insect world that we are only now beginning to understand. We hope that more experts will join us and help spread the knowledge of other insect groups to NSS members and the public at large. This is also an opportunity to extend research into lesser studied insect groups by involving amateurs and citizen scientists through society’s membership.
P.S. The photo shows the mascot of BIG, a Painted Jezebel



More than ten Cyclosia sordidus moths spotted at Durian Loop in one morning

Cyclosia sordidus (Walker, 1862), a pretty day-flying moth species of the family Zygaenidae subfamily Halcosiinae were spotted many times at Durian Loop today.

This species is sexually dimorphic, meaning males look and behave differently from females. Females appear to be more common than males. This may be due to the propensity of the females to fly higher and longer. Males tend to hide amongst the undergrowth, flying short distances only when disturbed.

A pristine male displaying reddish sheen on its forewings

A female showings its white bands on its forewings and white hindwings


For a picture of set specimens click here.


Cornelian female spotted at Rifle Range grassland

A female Cornelian (Deudorix epijarbas cinnabarus) spotted at grassland near the defunct Rifle Range at Bukit Timah. Males are orange red above with black bordering on the forewing. Caterpillars of this species has been recorded to feed on the fruit of pomegranate.


My Dear Butterfly….How Short Your Life Is.

Last Friday, 8th Aug 2014, I witnessed the horrific death of a butterfly.

I was walking along Hua Guan Avenue when I spotted a female Lemon Emigrant (Catopsilia pomona pomona) form pomona being pursued by a Yellow Vented Bulbul. It had a very ungaitly flight and was trying very hard to keep flying. By then it crossed the halfway point of the road when without warning it just dropped like a stone, landing hard on the tarmac. I rushed over to try to get it off the road when suddenly a truck appeared! Too late. It was roadkill. Here’s the picture when I got there.

The truck tyres seemed to have run over the head and thorax of the butterfly leaving the wings intact.


From My Drawing Board: A Step by Step Transformation

By Simon Chan

More than a year ago, Klyth Tan, editor of Nature Watch magazine asked me to write an educational butterfly article entitled ‘How to tell a butterfly from a moth?” (Volume 21 no 3, Jul-Sep 2013).  In it I was to explain that Lepidoptera or insects with scaly wings is made up of Butterflies (Rhopalocera) and Moths (Heterocera). The Butterflies in turn is made up of Papilionoidea (true butterflies), Hesperioidea (skippers) and Hedyloidea (American moth butterflies). That was when the problem began. We have no photographs of the American moth butterflies. So I had to draw it and here’s how it looks like below:

This article brought out a renewed interest in drawing and so I quickly drew my first big painting. Here in step by step motion, it will show the transformation from beginning to the end product. This painting is entitled ‘Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus?’ . Since then I have drawn 3 more paintings. All of them appeared in Nature Watch Volume 22 number 2, April – Jun 2014 under the heading of ‘A Painted Quartet of Butterfly Tales’.


Voila! The finished product.



iNaturalist for Singapore Moths is now Online!

If anyone of you has seen a moth and would like to report it please click on

Singapore Moths

It is a site to document and catalogue moth species found in Singapore, with a view to establishing the conservation status of each species.


Moth Night @ Seletar Country Club (SCC)

By Simon Chan

In conjunction with National Moth Week 2014 (19-27July), a moth night was held at SCC on Sat 26 July 2014.  Mr. Foo Jit Leang, a committee member of SCC graciously gave us permission to set up a moth trap beside the swimming pool. The event was registered at nationalmothweek.org to put Singapore on the NMW map!

What is National Moth Week 2014 – Scientific American

Here are some of the photos taken that evening.

Food and beer before the night shift!


Some of the denizens of the night attracted to the moth trap (cloth with bright light shining on it).

Taking photos of  ‘guests’  which are not only moths but insects like beetles and dragonflies…..

while others chit-chat waiting for the ‘big’ moths to arrive.

Trying to sort out which ones are micro moths and which ones are mosquitoes…..

while Mr. Foo (in light orange) made sure we are all enjoying ourselves.

Lots more chit-chatting while waiting for more moths to arrive…the night is still young!

“Have to check both sides….otherwise we may miss a gem somewhere!”

Photographing a dragonfly that mistook the glaring cloth as sunlight.

The light was sooooo bright it attracted more than one dragonfly!


Moth Workshop – 5th & 6th July 2014

By Simon Chan

With the conclusion of the two moth talks on Saturday 5th July 2014, a selected few attended a 2-day moth workshop conducted by Dr. Roger Kendrick over the weekend. This workshop was organised by BIG and NParks. It was truly an eye opener, even for me, an expert in butterflies.

Here are just some of the mind-blowing facts:

Around 125 moth families. About 60 occur in South-east Asia represented by around 10,000 recorded species. Some 170,000 scientifically described moth species in the world.

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words. I shall let the following pictures tell the story then.

Participants trickling into Ridley Hall, the venue of the moth workshop.

BIG vice-chairperson, Mr. Gan (middle) trying his best to identify some of the moths.

Three frames of moth specimens for our reference.

“This moth stuff is truly Greek to some of you!” expounded Dr. Kendrick. It is not too far from the truth as terms in entomology uses Latin and Greek words.

Participants of the workshop gather for a group photo.

On the first night of the workshop, participants got to experience a moth trapping session at Dairy Farm Nature Park.

Two of the many moths that came to the light that night.

BIG Chairperson, Mr. Anuj listened intently to what was taught.

Dr. Kendrick receiving a token of appreciation from Gan.

A group photo containing members of BIG-NSS, Malaysian Nature Society and National Parks with Dr. Kendrick.




Let’s Talk about Moths!

By Simon Chan

On Saturday 5th July 2014, the Singapore public were treated to two delightful talks about moths at the Function Hall of the Botany Centre in Botanic Gardens. These talks were jointly organised by the Butterfly Interest Group (BIG) of the Nature Society of Singapore (NSS) and National Parks.

The first talk entitled “Lyssa zampa swallowtail moths: opportunities for citizen science and public education” was given by Mr. N. Sivasothi, a lecturer at National University of Singapore. Also known as Otterman, he coordinates the Lee Kong Chian Museum volunteer group called Toddycats and the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore.  Besides actively blogging about animals, nature and the environment, he has been instrumental in generating public interest in Lyssa zampa moths by engaging people and collating their records since 2005.

This was followed by “Moth Magic: an introduction to moths” by Dr. Roger Kendrick, an expert in moths, with over 30 years of experience in nature conservation in U.K. and Hong Kong. He studied the ecology and conservation of moths for his PhD at the University of Hong Kong. His thesis is being written up into a book on Moths of Hong Kong, to be published by Hong Kong’s Lepidopterist’s Society of which his is a co-founder and life member. He is also the founder of Asian Lepidoptera Conservation Symposium (ALCS). He now provides wildlife recording, conservation and publication consultancy through his own company C&R Wildlife.

Here are some shots of the talks:

Some participants waiting for the talk to begin.

Mr. Anuj, chairperson of BIG introducing the speakers for the two talks.

Mr. Sivasothi expounding the virtues of having good data on the Lyssa zampa abundance.

Dr. Kendrick waiting in the wings.

‘There are over 170,000 species of moths in the world! That’s 8 times the number of butterfly species!’ exclaimed Dr. Kendrick.

The crowd spellbound by the information provided as they listen intently to every word spoken.

Speakers receiving tokens of appreciation from the vice-chairperson of BIG, Mr. Gan

All in all, the participants were captivated by the sheer number of species of moths, their survival strategies and the colours and patterns of their wings. It is hoped that these talks will generate more interest in the study of our moths in years to come!