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Misty blue falcate wings

November 4, 2011

For several days now I have admired lovely bluish butterflies visiting our Malabar blackmouth (Melastoma malabathricum, Melastomataceae). They do not care about the blossom, but like human children and sooty-headed bulbuls they can not resist the black fruits.

Browsing the butterfly book and trying to identify the butterfly by using the memory of a glimpse was not enough. Using my old butterfly net I caught a shabby old male and sat down before breakfast. I held the body (thorax) between my fingers. This part of the insect contains all the muscles for the four wings and six legs, and although the muscles are protected by the exoskeleton you can clearly feel how strong the butterfly is. It is like holding a living fish, vibrating of life of strength.

This butterfly turned out to be a ‘Gray baron’ (Euthalia anosia anosia, Nymphalidae). The male is characterized by strongly and elegantly falcate wing tips, absence of any white or red spots and a gorgeous misty blue colour on the forewings which Pisuth Ek-Amnuay describes as ‘mottled greenish gray’ in his eminent book on Thai butterflies. The female has a series of decorative white spots on its forewings. The undersides have clear patterns as drawn with black ink on a silvery gray paper.

This species is new to Dokmai Garden but previously reported from Chiang Mai. I found no information about its larva and what plant it eats, so we have to keep exploring.

My only problem is the English name, ‘Gray baron’. To me the butterfly appears blue, and ‘gray’ does not give justice to the beauty of the butterfly. I think something more distinguished would be appropriate. It looks old and clad with lichens, so why not ‘Forest baron’?

Text and Photo Eric Danell

Although old, worn and torn (not from my gentle handling but from age) this male displayed its typical underside with very clear patterns on a silvery background, and its briskly green proboscis used for sucking fruit juices. This butterfly would not care about your flowers, he likes fruit juice. He was released after making the ID and I saw him around his favourite bush soon again.

A detail of the top forewing of the butterfly male I caught. The patterns are composed of scales, hence the scientific name ‘Lepidoptera’ (scale wings) for the order of butterflies, moths etc. There are roughly 1250 species of butterflies in Thailand.

This male is not sunbathing, he is drinking!

The bluish colours disappear when the strong sun shines through the thin wings of a female. To the left the typical red immature fruits of the Malabar blackmouth.

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