6 No 1
Butterflies and their food plants
at Sungei Buloh
Land before time about the insects at Sungei Buloh
in Singapore Mangroves
5th Anniversary Celebrations
Volunteer Annual General Meeting
Otters in Sight and a Masked Finfoot
Land before time
are the creatures that roamed planet Earth long before the dinosaurs. Today,
they make up more than half of all the life forms on Earth. In "A Bug's
Life", Disney featured them as cutesy little creatures which evoke endearing
responses from the audience. In reality, they are predominantly shunned
like a plague or pursued to death. Much as people detest or are indifferent
to them, insects have crept and spread so successfully into our lives that
we will be impeded without them.
It is time these long suffering creatures were brought out of their
"armour-plated" shells and be given the due respect they deserve.
Brave on with me as I present you intriguing facts from the amazing
world of insects that can be found in Sungei Buloh Nature Park.
Mating Atlas Moth
Do you know that there is "a ratio of 200 million individual insects
to a single human being"? So it is not entirely untrue when Z, the
lead character in "Antz", complains about being "a middle child in
a family of five million". Considering the fact that some species
of termites are capable of laying up to 30,000 eggs in a day, this
should come as no surprise at all.
The Mating Game
To ensure continued survival, some of these insects have evolved to beat
the odds at their best. One good example is the Cicada. As the male generates
shrill calls to attract its likely mate, it is also unwittingly announcing
its presence to potential predators. The fact is that it is a ventriloquist,
so predators are kept from knowing its precise whereabouts. The female on
the other hand, would have no problem locating him at all. This form of
advertising is no doubt a much safer mode of courtship. Listen to these
sopranos serenading as you enter the Mangrove Boardwalk.
However, Mother Nature has her ways to keep the numbers in check. Not only
are insects favourites in the diet of some birds and lizards, they are also
hunted by some of their own kind. Preying upon the water surface is the
Pond Skater that detects its victim by the vibrations it caused. The hunter
swiftly seizes its prey before sinking its mouth parts into the body and
sucking its juices. Watch out for this piece of action at the Aquatic Plant
Not to be mistaken as
a damsel in distress is the dainty Damselfly, which also possesses the same
ferocious appetite and abilities of the Dragonfly. To tell them apart, you
need only to observe them at rest. While the Damselfly rests its wings parallel
to its body, the Dragonfly holds them perpendicular to itself.
deadliest danger is, however, airborne. Lurking above you around the
freshwater ponds are the "little dragons" of this age. The Dragonfly
is a proficient hunter that possesses the largest eyes in the insect
kingdom. It has no problem seeing all around it and at all times.
This extraordinary asset coupled with its ability to fly 55km per
hour, makes the Dragonfly a formidable threat to its victims, like
The Cotton Stainers are persecuted by cotton farmers as they stain
cotton with a fungus they carry. Although a much detested pest, it
is, however, much sought after at the Park. The brightly coloured
Cotton Stainer is a real beauty. You can easily find them amid the
flower buds of the Sea Hibiscus plant.
the rank of viciousness is the Praying Mantis. Meditating it is not: I can
assure you, as the creature lies motionless for hours among twigs and leaves.
The ill-fated fly is in for a deadly shock when it gets too close for comfort.
The worst act, however, is awarded to the female which is capable of biting
off the male's head after the act of procreation.
The Art of Defence
Thus it is evident that insects must develop appropriate defence mechanisms
to protect themselves from untimely death. Each insect has its own unique
method to do so.
The Stink Bug puts itself
off the menu of birds by discharging a foul-smelling liquid when it knows
its life is in jeopardy. The list goes on for this highly developed group
is the name of the one of the games they play to mislead their predators.
The Leaf Locust is a very good example. One could easily mistake it
as a leaf as its name suggests.
The Atlas Moth on the other hand employs its own tactic to safeguard
itself. Its wing tips are shaped like the head of a snake to scarce
potential predators off. For more about the Atlas
Moth (Vol 6 No 1 Apr 99)
The Weaver Ants make use of the silk produced by their larvae to seal
leaves together to form their cosy little home. Beware of raining
Weaver Ants, though, as they are capable of giving you nasty bites
There is so much to learn about this group of intriguing creatures
that it is easy to keep one spellbound and awed. One could easily
spend hours watching them go about their daily doings. All it takes
is a little patience and an eye for the small details.
The next time you drop by the Park, do remember to look out for these