Livin’ da vida Chocolate

Posted: April 25, 2010 in butterflies, macro photography
Tags: , , , , ,

The Sweet Life

Just type "chocolate royal" into Google search and the first image that it gives you is a luscious chocolate cake with plenty of chocolate icing on top.

The Chocolate Royal butterfly sounds like expensive dessert for blue blood.  And reminiscent of its name, it is a dark brown colour with two black tornal spot crowned with metallic green. 

Check out the colourful butt of this butt.

Previously, before a successful attempt by Horace Tan on capturing the life history, very little was known about its life history.  But thanks to his efforts, you can see the full story here.

The Chocolate Royal is a rare butterfly.  And I have only seen it twice ever.  And one of them was in poor condition.  This individual hung around long enough in spite of heavy human traffic to allow every one of us to get its photograph, including 3 guests with point and shoots (who were privileged to be allowed by the butterfly to get so close).

The butterfly is pretty fast on the wing and in this instance, preferred to return again and again to the same area, brushing its proboscis against the leaves.

Young of the Chocolate Royal feed on Eurya acuminata.

Gliding In The Shadows

Unlike the zippity expensive dessert butterfly, the less allusively named and humbly coloured Spotted Black Crow glides slowly in the shadows of the trees.

The young of the butterfly feeds on Parsonia helicandra, a plant which belongs to the family Apocynaceae, a family of plants known to have chemicals which is used by male butterflies in the sub-family Danainae in their courtship rituals. 

This group of plants fed on by the butterflies both when young and as adults also gives the butterflies its distastefulness which provides the butterflies protection from predators such as birds.

Hence with this in mind, the butterfly was not in any haste to get away from me as I stumbled, climbed and clawed my way up the muddy embankment on which it had calmly perched itself in a tree just slightly out of reach.

Not The Black or Yellow Ones

Standing motionless on the forest floor, a lone male Archduke came plodding around my feet instead of flying away.  The fact that it isn't speckled and all yellow readily eliminates the chances of it being a yellow Archduke, which doesn't display the dimorphism of the "normal" Archduke (dirteana).

Peering down at the curious butterfly (which had now climbed gingerly up onto my shoe) revealed that its sub-apical antennae were not black either, eliminating the possibility that this was the Black Archduke.

The comparison between all three Archdukes and poring through past photos however, causes me to wonder whether these two particular individuals encountered many months ago feeding on pineapple were actually the Yellow Archdukes.

As described in Corbet and Pendlebury 4, the underside of the L. canescens pardalina was an ochreous brown and clearly defined yellowish spots.  And both individuals were markedly smaller than the usual size of the female dirteana (photo attached for comparison).

Ochreous underside with defined yellow spots

Hugely different sizes between photo above and below

To save you from your confusion, refer to these very comprehensive links on the differences on

Lexias canescens pardalina

Lexias dirtea merguia

Lexias pardalis dirteana

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  1. Emil Hannon says:

    It will be last drop.

  2. zhy says:

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  3. sylvia says:

    I’ve had so much fun reading through your blog this weekend…alas it’s back to school today. But I’ll be back again soon to read more thoroughly and comment. You butterfly photography is simply outstanding. Phenomenal work!

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