Wildlife

Butterflies of the Philippines

Patrick
Written by Patrick
Travel Insurance

One of my favorite tourist attractions in the Philippines are the various butterfly gardens.  I always partake in the opportunity to visit a butterfly garden when in the Philippines. 

Butterfly gardens can be found at many of the resorts and mountain retreats. 

These gardens are not only beautiful and a great way to connect with nature, they are also a great learning opportunity about butterflies. 

There are a variety of species of both butterflies and moths that are unique to the Philippines.  It is estimated that there are 352 butterfly species endemic to the Philippines. 

Butterflies often have large brightly colored wings.  

Butterflies are often a symbol of freedom and also a  sign of resurrection and a miracle of transformation.

Summer is peak butterfly season in most parts of the world due to the warm sunny weather … however given the Philippines year-round tropical climate … butterflies flourish year-round in the Philippines. 

Butterflies play an important role in the biodiversity of the Philippines ecosystem mainly as a member of the food chain.  They are a food source for birds, spiders, lizards, mice, and other animals.

The following is a list of stunningly beautiful specimens of butterflies found in the Philippines:

1 | Blue Glassy Tiger

Blue Glassy Tiger

Caption: Blue Glassy Tiger | Image Source

Scientific Name: Ideopsis vulgaris macrina

The blue glassy tiger is identified by the blue markings on its forewing and glassy white on its hindwing, hence the common name.  The upper surface of its wings is colored black while the underside is brown.  The wingspan can reach approximately three inches.  Inhabiting the coastal mangrove areas and edge of rainforests, this species can be found in several Asian Countries including the Philippines.

2 | Blue Pansy Butterfly

Blue Pansy Butterfly

Caption: Blue Pansy Butterfly | Image Source

Scientific Name: Junonia orithya

The appearance of male varies from the female species of this butterfly.  In male, more than half of its forewing from base is velvety black to dark brown with two orange and two blue bars in the cell.  The hindwing is blue to velvety black towards the base.  Both forewing and hindwing of male have two post-discal eye-spots.  Females have similar post-discal eye-spots however the basal half of the forewings and hindwings are brown.  The blue pansy butterfly inhabits the open grassy areas but can also be seen in parks and gardens.

3 | Common Mapwing

Common Mapwing

Caption: Common Mapwing | Image Source

Scientific Name: Cyrestis maenalis

The common mapwing is identified by the chocolate brown lines running on a white base of its wings.  The pattern resembles the longitude and latitude lines on maps hence the common name.  The wings measure between 58-70 mm and the inner corners of both the forewings and hindwings show an orange patch.  This species inhabits the forest edges, sunny fields, meadows, and muddy swamps.  There are six subspecies found in various parts of the Philippines including Negros, Palawan, Mindoro, and Mindanao.

4 | Emerald Swallowtail

Emerald Swallowtail

Caption: Emerald Swallowtail | Image Source

Scientific Name: Papilio palinurus

Emerald swallowtail is identified by the broad bright emerald green metallic bands at the upper surface of its wings where it got its common name from.  The background color of the upper surface of the wings is dark greenish to black with a powder of green scales.  The underside of this butterfly looks far different from the upper as it is black and gray with blue, orange, and white spots.  This species with a wingspan of around 3 to 4 inches has a swift flight and primarily found in Southeast Asia including the Philippines particularly in Basilan and Palawan.

5 | Golden-tailed hairstreak

Golden-tailed hairstreak

Caption: Golden-tailed hairstreak | Image Source

Scientific Name: Cheritra orpheus

Also called orpheus imperial, the golden-tailed hairstreak is a small-sized butterfly with beautiful golden yellow upper surface and white underwings.  It is found in the Philippines particularly in Benguet, Palawan, and Mindoro.  This species graced the Philippine stamps in 2006.

6 | Green Dragontail

Green Dragontail

Caption: Green Dragontail | Image Source

Scientific Name: Lamproptera meges decius

The green dragontail is a small butterfly with a wingspan of around 1.5 to 2 inches.  Its color scheme is black and white and the forewing has a triangular glass-like or transparent patch with black borders.  It also has 6 to 8 thin black bands along the veins and a light green band across the pre-disceral area.  While sexes are alike, females have a dull appearance while males do not have the sex mark.  In the Philippines, it has been sighted in the provinces of Palawan, Nueva Ecija, and Zambales.

7 | Lacewing

Lacewing

Caption: Lacewing | Image Source

Scientific Name: Cethosia luzonica

Lacewing butterfly has a reddish and black color scheme.  This specie is endemic to the Philippines and has 4 subspecies found in Panay, Negros, Guimaras, Bohol, Leyte, Samar, Cebu, and Mindanao.  This species graced the Philippine stamps in 2019.

8 | Orange Emigrant

Orange Emigrant

Caption: Orange Emigrant | Image Source

Scientific Name: Catopsilia scylla

Orange emigrant or orange migrant, has white forewings with black edges while the hindwings are cadmium-yellow with black spots on the margins.  Females are the same but with more black spots on the forewing.  Its wingspan is around 2 inches and found in Southeast Asia and Australasia.

9 | Painted Jezebel

Painted Jezebel

Caption: Painted Jezebel | Image Source

Scientific Name: Delias hyparete

The painted jezebel is a medium-sized butterfly with black, white, yellow, and red color scheme.  The forewing is black and white while the hindwing is black and yellow with 4 to 6 red spots.  There are four subspecies in the Philippines and are found in Mindoro, Marinduque, Negros, Cebu, Bohol, Panay, Samar, Leyte, Palawan, and Mindanao.

10 | Scarlet Mormon

Scarlet Mormon

Caption: Scarlet Mormon | Image Source

Scientific Name: Papilio rumanzovia

Also referred to as red mormon, this species of butterfly is a black butterfly with vibrant red marking, where it got its common name from.  The wingspan is about 120 to 140 mm and while it is discovered in the Philippines, there are recorded sightings in Taiwan.

Fascinating Facts About Butterflies

People love watching colorful butterflies float from flower to flower. But from the tiniest blues to the largest swallowtails, how much do you really know about these insects? Here are 10 butterfly facts you’ll find fascinating.

Butterfly Wings Are Transparent

How can that be? We know butterflies as perhaps the most colorful, vibrant insects around! Well, a butterfly’s wings are covered by thousands of tiny scales, and these scales reflect light in different colors. But underneath all of those scales, a butterfly wing is actually formed by layers of chitin—the same protein that makes up an insect’s exoskeleton. These layers are so thin you can see right through them. As a butterfly ages, scales fall off the wings, leaving spots of transparency where the chitin layer is exposed.

Butterflies Taste With Their Feet

Butterflies have taste receptors on their feet to help them find their host plants and locate food. A female butterfly lands on different plants, drumming the leaves with her feet until the plant releases its juices. Spines on the back of her legs have chemoreceptors that detect the right match of plant chemicals. When she identifies the right plant, she lays her eggs. A butterfly of any biological sex will also step on its food, using organs that sense dissolved sugars to taste food sources like fermenting fruit.

Butterflies Live on an All-Liquid Diet

Speaking of butterflies eating, adult butterflies can only feed on liquids—usually nectar. Their mouthparts are modified to enable them to drink, but they can’t chew solids. A proboscis, which functions as a drinking straw, stays curled up under the butterfly’s chin until it finds a source of nectar or other liquid nutrition. The long, tubular structure then unfurls and sips up a meal. A few species of butterflies feed on sap, and some even resort to sipping from carrion. No matter the meal, they suck it up a straw.

A Butterfly Must Assemble Its Own Proboscis—Quickly

A butterfly that can’t drink nectar is doomed. One of its first jobs as an adult butterfly is to assemble its mouthparts. When a new adult emerges from the pupal case or chrysalis, its mouth is in two pieces. Using palpi located adjacent to the proboscis, the butterfly begins working the two parts together to form a single, tubular proboscis. You may see a newly emerged butterfly curling and uncurling the proboscis over and over, testing it out.

Butterflies Drink From Mud Puddles

A butterfly cannot live on sugar alone; it needs minerals, too. To supplement its diet of nectar, a butterfly will occasionally sip from mud puddles, which are rich in minerals and salts. This behavior, called puddling, occurs more often in male butterflies, which incorporate the minerals into their sperm. These nutrients are then transferred to the female during mating and help improve the viability of her eggs.

Butterflies Can’t Fly If They’re Cold

Butterflies need an ideal body temperature of about 85 degrees Fahrenheit to fly.1 Since they’re cold-blooded animals, they can’t regulate their own body temperatures. As a result, the surrounding air temperature has a big impact on their ability to function. If the air temperature falls below 55 degrees Fahrenheit, butterflies are rendered immobile—unable to flee from predators or feed.2

When air temperatures range between 82 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit, butterflies can fly with ease.3 Cooler days require a butterfly to warm up its flight muscles, either by shivering or basking in the sun.

A Newly Emerged Butterfly Can’t Fly

Inside the chrysalis, a developing butterfly waits to emerge with its wings collapsed around its body. When it finally breaks free of the pupal case, it greets the world with tiny, shriveled wings. The butterfly must immediately pump body fluid through its wing veins to expand them. Once its wings reach their full size, the butterfly must rest for a few hours to allow its body to dry and harden before it can take its first flight.

Butterflies Often Live Just a Few Weeks

Once it emerges from its chrysalis as an adult, a butterfly has only two to four short weeks to live, in most cases. During that time, it focuses all its energy on two tasks: eating and mating. Some of the smallest butterflies, the blues, may only survive a few days. However, butterflies that overwinter as adults, like monarchs and mourning cloaks, can live as long as nine months.

Butterflies Are Nearsighted but Can See Colors

Within about 10–12 feet, butterfly eyesight is quite good.4 Anything beyond that distance gets a little blurry, though.

Despite that, butterflies can see not just some of the colors that we can see, but also a range of ultraviolet colors that are invisible to the human eye. The butterflies themselves may even have ultraviolet markings on their wings to help them identify one another and locate potential mates. Flowers, too, display ultraviolet markings that act as traffic signals to incoming pollinators like butterflies.

Butterflies Employ Tricks to Avoid Being Eaten

Butterflies rank pretty low on the food chain, with lots of hungry predators happy to make a meal of them. Therefore, they need some defense mechanisms. Some butterflies fold their wings to blend into the background, using camouflage to render themselves all but invisible to predators. Others try the opposite strategy, wearing vibrant colors and patterns that boldly announce their presence. Bright colored insects often pack a toxic punch if eaten, so predators learn to avoid them.

Video

Butterfly Gardens

The following is a list of a few butterfly gardens in the Philippines: 

About the Author

Patrick

Patrick

Patrick is an entrepreneur, digital nomad, explorer, and photographer. Patrick is always in search of fun and adventure. He is well travelled throughout the world, and although location independent, his home base is Phoenix, Arizona in the USA. Patrick loves island lifestyle which is no wonder why he is so interested in spending time in the Philippines with it’s over 7,000 islands. Patrick created this site to share his knowledge of and experiences in the Philippines with Filipinos as well as other foreigners.

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