PBH'S BUTTERFLIES

 To read the scientific paper published in the Chinese journal Acta Zoologica Sinica, about the recording of butterfly species diversity in and around "Indang Village" in Cavite, please click the following link:

Indang species diversity

For something simpler, more suitable for the general viewer with some interest in butterflies, wildlife habitats, land use and conservation, read on.

In 1998, tempted by an advert in a Philippine newspaper sold in the U.K., I bought a plot of land in a new "subdivision", named "Indang Village" and located at Calumpang Lejos, three miles south-west of the town of Indang proper, in Cavite province. Indang is approximately 40 miles south of Manila; it is a small provincial town but contains a university and is served by a frequent 'bus service from Manila. When I first saw the place, there was a butterfly migration in full swing - dozens of Catopsilia Pierids, the "Emigrants" (C. pyranthe, C. pomona and C. scylla) and other species. The idea of living there seemed absolutely marvellous - green, in harmony with the natural environment, and yet within easy reach of all amenities.

These views show the site before any houses were built; note that immediately to the north is a large expanse of what looked at first glance to be a very fair approximation to secondary forest.

The development was intended to be a 'British village" and the houses were supposed to be of British design. Mine was the first house to be constructed; the "Village" then looked as though it could exist relatively in harmony with Nature - note the mango, coconut and santan trees - although some parts were looking a bit more formal, as in the case of the so-called park below. The secondary forest in the background - this time looking westwards - is still clearly visible.

The site owner had the ambition of developing a "British school" as part of the complex. I was offered a position as a teaching assistant, and for a while it looked as though the project was going to succeed. But ugly signs began to creep in that all was not well. One by one the mango trees fell beneath the chain-saw. More and more houses went up and it became like living on a building site. To the west of the "Village" was what had been low-grade grazing and crop-growing land amidst semi-forest, where in 2000 there was a superb colony of the blue Danaine Tirumala limniace ("Blue Tiger"), the site developer secured another large patch of land, designated it as "Phase 3", and despite professing to agree with all my comments about its habitiat and conservation value and the possibilities of developing it in harmony with the environment, attacked it as shown in the picture below.

  

Another walk I sometimes made was out of the "Village", along the road through the settlement of Calumpang Lejos and down a rough lane past some low-intensity fruit-farming land to a river: the picture below shows this location (the girls are my daughter Loren, then aged 6, and the daughter of another resident of the "Village"). The other picture is of a house near the river close to this point, and emphasises the vast social gulf between the inhabitants of the "Village" and some of the local community; I thought at first that the owner of this very primitive house was a banana-grower, but it transpired that he was actually an unemployed furniture-maker and had nothing to do with the banana trees adjacent to the dwelling. He did possess a television - an incredibly old, crackly, black-and-white one which could just about be coaxed into showing something like a picture, but nothing else remotely in the way of luxury, and I once saw his wife serving water-snails from the river as a delicacy for the children.

We had only been nine months in our house in "Indang Village" when the site-owner quarrelled with the schoolmaster, who was forced to move out of the "Village" and transfer the teachers and all but two of the pupils to a new school in Dasmarinas.. We continued to live in the "Village" for the best part of another year, I travelling daily to and from Dasmarinas, but further personality clashes occurred, both in the new school and in the "Village", and in July 2002 we decided that it would be prudent to return to England, which we did two months later, settling the girls into the security of a genuine British school and I returning to my previous employment in an office.

 

THE BUTTERFLIES

I have already mentioned the "Emigrants", Catopsilia pyranthe (Mottled Emigrant), C. pomona (Lemon Emigrant) and C. scylla (Orange Emigrant), in the remarks about our first impressions of the site in 1998. They would normally be just passing through, occasionally pausing for nectar (as are the three below. C. pyranthe (left) and C. scylla (right) on Tridax, and C. pomona (centre) on one of the ornamental shrubs), and not too worried about the state of the habitat. The fourth photograph shows a rare visit by Papilio rumanzovia (Red Mormon) to one of those ornamental flowering shrubs.

 P. rumanzovia  will breed on Citrus (see the Binangonan page), but I never recorded it doing so at Indang. P. alphenor and P. demoleus, however, regularly did breed on Citrus bushes in the garden; these species, especially P. demoleus, show a very high degree of adaptation to man-modified habitats. Some other species which could breed in the Village in spite of the regular indiscrimate scything of anything remotely resembling semi-natural vegetation included the Common Five-ring Ypthima stellera, the Pea Blue Lampides boeticus (the same species which in Europe (and as a very rare migrant in Britain) is known as the Long-tailed Blue), and perhaps the Gram Blue Euchrysops cnejus.

I am reasonably certain that two of the "Pansies", Junonia almana and J. lemonias (for photographs see the Binangonan page) bred for a while on the site, and a third, J. hedonia (see picture below) may well have done as it was frequently seen. There also for a while appeared to be s mall colony of Mycalesis ita, one of the "Bushbrowns", in one of the slower to develop fenced-off plots. The example shown has a severe bird-peck in the left forewing and hindwing. Another very frequent visitor to the "Village", non-breeding, was Appias olferna, seen here on a Tridax flower; but it was a red-letter day when the magnificent "Birdwing" Troides rhadamanthus sat for photography on one of the ornamental shrubs.

There were some species which bred in the "Village", and which I saw almost every day, but never photographed at Indang - the adage of "familiarity breeds contempt" - the thought that I could photograph these common ones "at any time", with the result that I never did - but here are some pictures of those species taken elsewhere: Eurema hecabe (Common Grass Yellow), Leptosia nina (Psyche), Zizina otis (Lesser Grass Blue) and Taractrocera luzonensis (Grass Dart). All these are low-flying species very tolerant of disturbed habitats and which also occur in inner-city habitats in the capital. E. hecabe and L. nina require some shrubs in their habitat, but Z. otis thrives in severely mown grass in which its hostplants, low-growing clovers, occur; it abounded even on the mown park lawns in the "Village", and was rare outside. T. luzonensis also requires open grass habitat bun not grass as short as that favoured by Z. otis.

For most of the butterfly sepcies, the real home was in the "Forest" as we tended to call the land outside the "Village" - although it was far removed from anything like true primary forest; at least there were a fair number of trees even though many of them were coconut or fruit trees and cows grazed in the frequent clearings and there was quite a lot of low-intensity crop-farming. The Jamides Blues ("Ceruleans") were always numerous along the paths: I reckon this is J. alecto although J. cleodus was more numerous; Eurema hecabe (see above) was always abundant, and so were the Ypthimas: Y. stellera (see three rows above) and also Y. sempera (the photograph below shows the upperside; the underside differs from Y. stellera by having three eye-spots instead of five on the hindwing). The Mycalesis "Bush Browns" occurred all along the track in the understory: there were at least two species, M. mineus and M. igoleta; I believe the mating pair shown below to be M. mineus. Another Satyrine in these parts, but much rarer, was the beautiful Ptychandra lorquinii, seen here just about to take off and giving a rare glimpse of the bluish-purple upperside. The white-and-yellow Pierid Cepora aspasia was also common, mostly to the west and south of the "Village" near a settlement of very basic wooden houses, where this picture of a mating pair was taken.

 Among the large Nymphalids Hypolimnas bolina (Great Eggfly) was occurred in most parts; Neptis mindorana was regular in the more wooded sections, but Cyrestis maenalis seemed to be confined to one little bit of woodland just at the start of the track leading into the forest from the road. One day I found a mating pair sitting right in front of me at this spot - and had not brought my camera! Pantoporia dama at first glance looked very similar to N. mindorana, but it was smaller and much less frequent; this one in fact had come into the "Village" and flown into the guard-house by the entrance; having found its way out it rested on the glossy-leaved shrub outside. 

 

After rains, some butterflies would "mud-puddle" on the track inside the forest, as these Papilio alphenor (the Philippine equivalent of the widespread Asian P. polytes, the Common Mormon) - these two are males: notice how totally different they look from the female shown five rows above - or small Lycaenids such as the black-and-white Caleta roxus. Many other Lycaenids occurred in this forest, very difficult to identify and probably I under-recorded the number of species; I hope I have correctly identified this mating pair as Prosotas dubiosa, and the Nacaduba resting on a leaf as N. sanaya.

Further along the track, the terrain became more open, with more crop-growing and cattle-grazing - though still coexisting with quite a bit of semi-natural vegetation, and some clumps of Lantana bushes provided a nectar source. Here is a Graphium eurhrates taking nectar, and Prusiana prusias resting nearby.  The family Hesperiidae, of which P. prusias is one, does tend to be regarded, very unjustifiably, as the "poor relation" among butterfly families, being for example totally ignored by Bernard D'Abrera in his monumental works on all the world's butterflies, and by some authorities apparently as "false" butterflies as they refer to all the other families as "true" butterflies. Fortunately in the Philippines this is offset by there being a splendid two-volume work recently published, by Rienk de Jong and Colin G. Treadaway, specifically on the Philippine Hesperiidae. Still on the theme of this family, here are two other species which occurred in the deepest parts of the Indang woodland; very different-looking and from different subfamilies: Odontoptilium angulatum in the subfamily Pyrginae and Ancistroides nigrita (Chocolate Demon) in the Hesperiinae.

The vernacular names bestowed long ago by colonials on some of these wonderful Skippers are almost as splendid as their scientific names: an example is the genus Notocrypta: N. paralysos is the Common Banded Demon and N. feisthamelii is the Spotted Demon; I recorded both of these from Indang though regrettably did not obtain photographs of either; below is a view of N. feisthamelii from Mt. Makiling. The orange Skippers occurred mainly in the more open area further along the track: here are views of Oriens californica, Potanthus pava and Cephrenes acalle.

Then there were the darker ones, including Halpe lueisquama and Parnara kawazoei. Beyond this open patch, the track descended a slight declivity and came to a wooded stream, where again butterflies more typical of true forest predominated; here I would find Zethera pimplea and Danaus melanippus (this photograph of D. melanippus however was taken elsewhere)

Turning attention now to the other walk I used to take, outisde the "Village", along the road past the houses and gardens, and down the little rough lane to the river, these included Euploea mulciber, the Striped Blue Crow (here are two photographs, showing different degrees of striping on the underside),  one might see Pachliopta kotzebuea (one here taking a rare rest), or occasionally some butterflies would "mud-puddle", such as this Hypolimnas anomala,

or Chilasa clytia, the Common Mime.

Just rarely, at the end of the day, crepuscular species would come into the "Village", including this my only sighting of the Banana Skipper Erionota thrax, or Amathusia phidippus, the Palm King.

The "Forest" continued to produce new species. Very occasionally, a real beauty would appear quite high up in the trees, as this Delias henningia (the Delias species are sometimes collectively knows as "Jezebels") , or perhaps Symbrenthia anna (the Symbrenthia species are sometimes known as "Jesters").

I am sure there must have been vastly more small Lycaenids up in the trees than I was able to identify and record. The Common Tit Hypolycaena erylus would occasionally appear in the deepest part of the forest; far more elusive were the Allotinus species, collectively known as "Darkies"; they are extremely difficult to identify and D'Abrera, in his otherwise monumental book  grossly over-simplifies them. I think this one (second picture below) is A. fallax; it is very atypically resting on a window in the "Village". The caterpillars of the "Darkies" are carnivorous, feeding on small insects; this is also the case with Spalgis epius, the delightfully-named "Apefly", which one day appeared on a tree in the school grounds. The fourth picture below - not a very good one I am afraid - shows a very different and much larger Lycaenid: Arhopala pseudocentaurus, the Centaur Oakblue, one of the only three species in the vast genus Arhopala, with sixty-two species the largest butterfly genus represented in the Philippines, that I have ever managed to see, let alone photograph.

This Papilio hytaspes was a surprise one day in the school garden: even more of a surprise that it settled - Papilionids are normally very fidgetty including when feeding - while I rushed for a camera. The Leopard Phalanta phalantha was fairly regular in the more open sector further along the forest track; noticeably along this sector, and in and close to the "Village" itself, including the "Phase 3" where pioneering vegetation had begun to recolonise the bare soil - during the last two months of our stay, following our decision in mid-July 2002 to return to Britain, butterflies seemed to become a lot more numerous and quite a few hitherto unknown species appeared. Regrettably by that time I had no further slide film, and although I continued to record the species seen each day had become rather apathetic; the result was that I do not have any photographs from those last few weeks, and such marvels as the single appearance of the large, impressive Nymphalid Yoma sabina (the "Lurcher") on 2.9.2002 amidst the other numerous visitants to the Lantana bushes at the edge of some farmland behind the "Village" passed unverified.

I note that the small Hesperiid Suada albina (changed to albinus in the latest de Jong & Treadaway book) does not seem to appear in my recording list, yet I have a photograph - the third one below - of one labelled as taken at "Indang" - presumably this was because I identified it from the photograph some time after compiling the list for whichever day it was seen. The final photograph is a mystery and a hint of what multitude of further exploration might have awaited a more diligent lepidopterist able to remain and study longer in this area - if the habitat remained for him to so so - four disembodied wings found on the forest track, of a Lycaenid species which I have not been able to identify.

Those then are my memories of what I had naively hoped would be the proverbial tropical paradise. Even so, my stay there was a memorable experience and I certainly do not regret it.

 "Indang Village" still remains, now apparently marketed mainly as retirement homes. The school does not remain. I wonder whether butterflies st find any breeding habitat there, or come in from the forest - if indeed any of the forest remains?

 

click here for a list of all my butterfly records from Indang and vicinity

click here for a summary of the data, showing the number of days on which each species was seen, years of discovery in the Philippines/Luzon, size, colour, similar species, hostplants

 POSTSCRIPT 2011

Although I had not expected ever to visit the Philippines again, owing to an unexpected turn of events in August 2011 I did make another visit, and managed to take a very brief nostalgic look at "Indang Village", after a lapse of nine years.

All the way from DasmariƱas, an hour's car journey, I was struck by how much new building had gone up along the road. In Indang proper, the Cavite State University had considerably expanded and parts of the town were quite unrecognisable.

But: at "Indang Village" itself, however, everything was recognisable. There was my old house, obviously well cared-for by its new owners. The "Village" felt spacious and green, with abundant vegetation. The track leading into the forest, just to the north of the "Village", was still there - that same forest track where I had taken walks on average once per week in 2000-2, and the forest did not look to have been further reduced. The "retirement village" was on the other side of the road, an area which had not been good butterfly habitat.

I felt more reassured than anything else. There is hope.


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