I like how my garden is fast becoming a haven for butterflies and their young. And the best part is, it's a different caterpillar each time.
This little gem of a caterpillar is the Doleschallia bisaltide australis (Autumn Leaf). It is a Nymphalid butterfly found mainly in India and also in Australia where it is known as Leafwing. It is not endemic to Singapore, but it is believed that the growing population we see here could have been the result of escapees from butterfly parks.
The host plants for these caterpillars are mainly the Asystasia gangetica (Common Asystasia, Coromandel) and the Graptophyllum pictum (Caricature plant). The former is a wild weed commonly found growing in wastelands or along footpaths.
The genus Doleschallia comprises about 8 described species, although the status of some of these is questionable, some authors considering that at least 4 of them are just subspecies of bisaltide.
Both sexes are very similar, and on the upperside are orange-brown, except for the subapical area which is blackish.
This species breeds in primary and secondary rainforest at altitudes between sea level and about 1400m.
The fully grown caterpillar is black, adorned with short shiny bluish-green whorled spines. It has a series of broken, broad white stripes along the back, and a pair of thin broken off-white lines below the spiracles. The abdominal segments each carry a large red tubercle below each spiracle. The head is steely blue. It feeds gregariously on plants including Artocarpus ( jack fruit ), Pseuderanthemum, Calycanthus, and Graptophyllum ( Acanthaceae ).
The caterpillars are parasitised by Chalcid wasps, which emerge after the larvae has pupated.
The butterflies have a strong, direct and very rapid flight. They are usually encountered singly along forest roads, small clearings, orang-asli villages, and small quarries within forested areas.
Males imbibe moisture from damp sand and rocks on riverbanks and roadsides. If disturbed they fly up rapidly but re-settle nearby on walls or tree trunks, assuming a downward-facing posture, with wings closed.