Delectable Taiwan: Bubble Tea and Butterflies

Posted: May 30, 2011 in butterflies, holidays, Tai Zhong, Taiwan, taiwan butterflies, Yang Ming Shan
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OK I know there’s been a DEHP scare in Taiwan recently.  And I’d recently come back from Taiwan and literally spent every meal in the company of a big cup of bubble tea with all the happy tapioca jelly balls shooting up the large straw straight into my milk tea addicted being.


But I can’t say that I had a bad time there.  In fact I can’t even say I had an ok time there.  I had a fantastic time.  There was so much to do in Taiwan even though I only went with friends in the land of honeymoon and romantic couple spas.

Scratch couple spas and other couply stuff, there are enough night markets or Ye Shi in Taiwan to make sure that even your late nights are busy plying the streets in search of an even tastier smelly tofu or Chou To Fu and more more more bubble tea.

Symbrenthia lilaea formosanus: This butterfly can be found up in thick dark foliage on mountain slopes as well as loitering around near sunlit waterfalls and streams.

Each night market is different and boasts a different theme.  There are some which are mainly fashion wholesalers and you can get a steal of very frilly fashion at very low prices.  There are also some which are lined with fried chicken/ji pa, Taiwan sausage burgers/da chang bao xiao chang, squids, crazy tall ice creams, fruit shakes, candied tomatoes, lamb soups and tea eggs.  The Taiwanese even eat water cockroaches.  And you can get a T-shirt expounding the spirit of a common cockroach (which I bought).

Symbrenthia hypselis scatinia: This shy shade loving butterfly was somehow spotted by a friend near the forest floor amongst the unruly vegetation up on a hill at Sun Moon Lake.  Although not pristine and torn, the markings are strikingly reminescent of the Jester butterfly.
We visited a variety of locations around Taiwan, including night markets around Tai Zhong, Dan Shui, a coastal area famous for Sun Cakes or Tai Yang Bing, Yang Ming Shan off Tai Pei and a variety of waterfalls around Puli in search of butterflies.
At the trails around Sun Moon Lake, it was hard not to notice the numbers of silverline butterflies dotting the vegetation here and there.  Silverlines can be found in Singapore as well but there are only 2 known species in Singapore versus 3 in Taiwan (as much as I could gather from their identification books).  The silverline in these three photos are guessed to be the Spindasis syama, with the brown upperside to be female and the one with a greater blue surface to be male. 
There is one other different looking silverline shot that day which is suspected to be the Spindasis lohita formosana.  It has thicker lines across the body and 3 spots on the hindwing are connected instead of separated in the syama.  There is also a queer line running from the tail into the orange tornal area on the hindwing:

Other than silverlines, Taiwan has more papilio butterflies than any of my Singapore field trips put together.

These 4 photos are of the Papilio hermosanus.  In the identification books there is a very similar looking nakaharai which is identified by the less distinct post discal red markings on the underside of the hindwing.

These butterflies were congregated in groups and were flying off the surface of a small waterfall darting in and out, landing ever so often and then nervously taking off in like fickle-minded fashion.  They also appeared to be chasing one another and none of them appear to have all of their wings intact, whether its a tail, “moth eaten” fringes or even half a wing.  They also have a distinct green iridescent shimmer on the upperside of their wings.

But most of the Papilio butterflies are seen and recorded only in the appreciative eye as one treks up and down the trail admiring the procession of fleeting visits from this butterfly or that and like this Papilio bianor thrasymedes your best chance of even getting a record would be to hope that there are irresistable flowers around to allow these beauties to forget the big canons aimed hungrily at them.

Besides the larger butterflies, there are also plenty of fast fliers to give you a healthy run and frantic eye exercise.  This very elusive looking Prioneris thestylis formosana was one such butterfly.  It has the propensity to make a nearly there but didn’t press the trigger day a rather sad day after having to resign to the fact that it isn’t going to give you a second chance at capturing its beauty through your lens.  This butterfly will also puddle on the ground given the chance (if you’re not too close) but is generally nervous enough to bid you good bye if you take too long to get a shot or come too close.

These common-as-cabbages Pieris canidia canidia seem to be found everywhere including on roadside flowers.  The above top left photo shows a female looking like she is ovipositing on a weed.  They are especially abundant in farms and scores of them can be seen chasing and knocking each other away over one female perched on a leaf with her abdomen up.  Males and females are marked differently, with the female having darker and more spots than the male.  She also has a distinct yellowish mark on her hindwing when her wings are folded at rest.

The strikingly marked Penthema Formosanum was spotted both on the leafy slopes of Yang Ming Shan as well as on the leaf litter near rows of bamboo trees.  With a slow gliding form in flight, this butterfly is easy to trace but requires patience in order to wait for a landing.  It also tends to take a nice leisurely walk once it has landed frustrating the angle which a belly prone photographer has intended for the butterfly.

The beautiful Argyreus hyperbius or Hongkong Fritillery is also a slow flier and can be found in couplets.  However, throughout the trip, we only saw them once flying near a tea plantation at Sun Moon Lake.  Having the same propensity as my dog to chase other dogs, as well as being quite skittish, this butterfly is not easy to photograph in spite of its slow flight.  A hat was dropped in a drain, much scrabbling along rocky slopes was attempted and a mighty leap off a wall was executed in order to follow the butterfly around.













This Acraea issoria formosana is also a slow flier and flies very much like the Tawny Coster in Singapore.  They are abundant on most of the trails that we went to.  However, many of them appear to be dying, pasted to stems and withered as we understood from the locals that Taiwan is currently affected by a drought and a lot of the butterflies appear to be affected as numbers have dwindled in previously popular waterfalls.

These photos show the male (top left) and female (top right) of the Heliophorus ila matsumurae, a dimunitive butterfly with distinctly cheerful coloration.  Found trying unsuccessfully to be as bland as the grass it was hopping around in and on mossy stream banks, this little butterfly is the delight of many photographers.  Yes, you can photograph one of these little guys and then suddenly find other photographers turn bright green with envy.  Not staying for very long as each disturbance, this butterfly is however, common in Taiwan! 


The following butterflies from top to bottom, left to right are also common in Taiwan:

Lampides boeticus, Junonia orithya, Neptis sappho formosana, Neptis hylas luculenta






Last but not least, the higher shaded trails up Yang Ming Shan are home to some strikingly marked shade-loving butterflies like these:

The left shows a female Lethe europa pavida.  Males are distinguished by a much thicker white band across the forewing on the underside.  The photo on the right shows a male Lethe chandica ratnacri.  Both these butterflies were found in the same area not far from each other although the male ratnacri proved to be more difficult and more skittish to trace through the leaf litter. 

Taiwan sunrises are at 5a.m. and their sunsets are at 5p.m.  It will be noticeable that the butterflies have packed their little bags and gone back home around 4p.m.  There will be noticeably less butterflies if at all so it is important to hit the trails early.  Lots of butterflies can be found at waterbodies.  Less can be found on the mountainous trails, but this may be largely how good you are at spotting the shade loving butterflies, traffic on these trails as well as how patient you are when dealing with scrambling around rocky or grassy slopes in search of that elusive butterfly!

To end this lengthy post, Taiwan is a lot more than just bubble tea and butterflies.  The people are friendly, hate for you to say they are part of China and the scene is vibrant, colouful and will simply take you more than 1 week to get to know it all!

  1. Lauri says:

    Sounds like a fantastic time…and the photos are great!

  2. Charissa says:

    Gorgeous pictures, and love the concept of capturing butterflies!

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