Hong Kong Lepidopterists' Society Events & Activities

Report on a  Butterfly Watching trip to 

Palawan and Negros islands in the Philippines 3rd to 12th April 2004

by P.C. Lee


Palawan is an island at the western most part of Philippines. Actually it includes about 1700 islands with a total area of 1.5 million hectares making it the largest province of the Philippines. The entire province was proclaimed as Fishery and Wildlife Sanctuary in 1967 resulting in a better protection to wildlife. More than 600 species of butterfly can be found there. Due to its peculiar geographical location, it occupies the transitional zone of life fauna from the Indo-Malaysian group of islands to the Philippines' group of islands; therefore it has species from both.  As it is isolated from the rest of the other islands, it also has species endemic to its own and is found nowhere else in the world. It is a long thin island with the mountains in the middle and the rest are lowlands. The mountain in our trip is the Mt. Salakot, which is one the highest mountain in the region.

Negros is another island roughly in the middle of the Philippines' group of islands. It is smaller than Palawan, yet it has its own endemic species. Bacolod, the island capital, is also known as the "City of Smile". We focus ourselves to the active volcano, Mt Kanalon. It is one of the highest mountain on the island, with the highest point at 2465 meters. It is located 40 Km South West of the capital. The last eruption was in 1988 taking away the lives of 24 people. It was proclaimed a Natural Reserve as early as 1934, encircling an area of 24,558 hectares, so there is still a few patches of rainforest remain undisturbed. The rest are sugar cane fields.

This time of the year is the dry season, so we did not expect too much. Most of the butterflies we encountered during this trip were the Satyrids, Amathusids, Hesperids and the Danaids. A few Nymphs, Pierids and one Riodinid, plus a few Lycaenids. The Papilios are scarce, but once they appear, they are all beautiful ones with many endemic to the Philippines and even to the island itself.

 Our adventure started on the 3rd April and ended 12th April 2004. 

Day I

 I arrived Manila late at night. Lydia, our friend there, picked me up and drove me to the hotel where James was staying. We went to bed early because we had to catch the early flight next morning.


Day 2 

We arrived at Puerto Princesa, the capital of the province of Palawan. It is also the second largest city in the Philippines. The staff from the resort came to pick us up and drove us to the Kiau Resort in the Napsan region. The trip would be more than two hours. Since it was still early and we did not want to waste our precious time, we asked them to drop us off once we got into the countryside around Salakot Waterfall. We started to walk towards the resort and asked them to picked us up around 4p.m. The road was wide and vegetations along both sides of the road were recently cut down, so we did not expect to see much. It was very hot with the sun scorching our back. We encountered only a few Lycaenids, among them an Allotinus spp. with its special stance, raising itself on four legs. A few Danaids and a few Ypthima were also seen. Other than that, there was nothing worth mentioning. 

Miletus spp.

        Ypthima sempera aquilius FRUHSTORFER 1911

Ypthima sempera aquilius FRUHSTORFER 1911 Euploea algea cyllene STAUDINGER 1889

Actually we had tried to walk the side path, there should be something because the vegetation were thicker. Indeed, we saw an Arhopala spp. with blue spots in the hindwings once we got inside, but time did not allow us to do so. The staff from the resort arrived punctually. When we got back to our resort, I immediately rushed to the river besides the resort and looked for the Trogonoptera trojana HONRATH 1886. They were seen drinking water on the bank very often. None was found because it was not the right season. There are only two species of Trogonptera, the other one is the T. brookiana WALLACE 1855 , which can be found elsewhere in the Indo-Malaysian region. 

The T. trojana can only be found in Palawan and nowhere else in the whole world. 

        Trogonoptera trojana HONRATH 1886

I was quite disappointed. As there was still sunlight, we went to the bushes besides the resort. We saw a female Pareronia valeria palawana FRUHSTORFER 1900 laying eggs on the undergrowth, a few skippers and Saytyrids and nothing else. So we had a shower and dinner. We retired to bed early and wanted to start early next morning. In actual facts, we did the same everyday. The fieldtrip would start at 7a.m. and end at 4p.m. So I would not border to mention it in the rest of the journey.@


Day 3 

We started our trip from the Salakot Waterfall and walked up the mountain. At first we only encountered a few Ypthima and Danaids. Further up the mountain, we started to see things we did not have in Hong Kong though the Danaids and Ypthima were also quite different, we saw a Symbrenthia hypselis niphandina FRUHSTORFER 1912 feeding on animal dungs. The upper wings looked almost the same as the one we had, but the under wings looked completely different. Further up we saw a Tanaecia  spp.,  later we found out that there were quite a number of them. 

Symbrenthia hypselis niphandina FRUHSTORFER 1912
Euploea camaralzeman claudina STAUDINGER 1889 Euploea spp.
Orsotriaena medus medus FABRICIUS 1775 Ypthima sempera aquilius FRUHSTORFER 1911

Then we saw a female Cethosia hypsea palawana FRUHSTORFER 1900, similar to the ones in Indo-Malaysia. They differ from ours by having a white patch on the underside of the wings. A medium size Satyrid, the Neorina lowi princesa STAUDINGER 1889, stayed for a while, just enough for a few shots. A few Abisara echerius palawana STAUDINGER 1889,  different from ours by having a white spot on the front wings.  Then we saw the goodies, a Arisbe megaera STAUDINGER 1888which mimics the Euploea spp.  to such an extent that we thought it was one, and it is endemic to this Island. A large Idea leuconoe princesa STAUDINGER 1889, flied leisurely over our head. We saw them several times during our trip and I only managed to take one long shot when it rested for a while high in the canopy in the next trip. A few T. trojana were also seen high up in the canopy. By this standard, they were not so rare on this Island and their food plant could be seen everywhere. About half way up the mountain, James and I saw a small Horaga spp. (Lycaenid) high up in the treetop. I took two shots and found out later that they were too far away to be identified. We returned from that point. On our way back, we saw a Hasora spp. (Hesperid).  We actually saw at least 4 kinds of Hasora spp. in this Mt. Salakot during the 2 trips. I managed to capture a brilliant blue upper surface of a Satyrid. In fact, it was a nymph - Terinos clarissa lucia STAUDINGER 1889  in one of my photos. A sorties of black and white banded nymph were also seen. To our surprise, an Idea leuconoe princesa STAUDINGER 1889 stopped for us to take photos and we had all the good shotS that we could get. Several Danaids were chasing each other on the ground. They were a bit small by the Danaid standard. The male had a brilliant blue upper surface which I got one fairly good shot. The female had pale beige patches on the forewings upper surface. I managed to take one when it was flying, but the photo was not good and I had to use the underside photo. A few Eurema spp. were also seen. A larger Danaid - Euploea phaenareta salvini STAUDINGER 1889 with white spots was present. Then we returned to the bridge across a stream we crossed earlier. Two Graphiums took our bite -you know what?  I quite like the diabetic one - more sugar content! We took a lot of photos there. With a few Mycalesis and Junonia hedonia adding to the list, we ended our first trip up the mountain. By the way, some spectacular, never stopping ones were also seen. There was a lot of Papilio lowi, with its brilliant pale blue hindwings and tail, flied by. At least two Pachilopta /species, one with tails and one without tails were also seen. They had beautiful velvet like black wings and bright red bodies.

Euchrysops cnejus cnejus FABRICIUS 1798

Neorina iowii princesa STAUDINGER 1889 Athyma salvini FRUHSTORFER 1912

              Cethosia hypsea palawana FRUHSTORFER 1900  - (female)

Abisara echerius palawana STAUDINGER 1889

 Junonia iphita adelaida STAUDINGER 1889

Idea leuconoe princesa STAUDINGER 1889    Euthalia alpheda rodriguezi SCHRÖDER & TREADAWAY 1982 Terinos clarissa lucia STAUDINGER 1889
 Hasora spp.   Tarratia gutama teldeniya FRUHSTORFER 1912  Tarratia gutama teldeniya FRUHSTORFER 1912

Idea leuconoe princesa STAUDINGER 1889

Idea leuconoe princesa STAUDINGER 1889

Euploea mulciber paupera STAUDINGER 1889

Arisbe delessertia palawanus STAUDINGER 1889

Athyma godmani godmani STAUDINGER 1889

Arisbe megaera STAUDINGER 1888

Day 4 

We went up the mountain Salakot again. Strange enough, some of the butterflies we saw yesterday were no longer there. Apart from the Ypthima and Mycalesis, a nice Pandita sinope sinoria FELDER 1867 was seen, it was a beautiful orange Nymph. A few other endemic ones were also seen. The male Cethosia hypsea palawana FRUHSTORFER 1900 was seen today. A Hypolimnas bolina philippensis BUTLER 1874, looking unlike the one in Hong Kong, several other species of Pierids including a few Cepora; and Hasora as I mentioned before were seen.

Cethosia hypsea palawana FRUHSTORFER 1900 - (male)

Pandita sinope sinoria FELDER 1867 Cepora aspasia olgina  STAUDINGER 1889 -(female)
Hypolimnas bolina philippensis BUTLER 1874 Zzina otis otis FABRICIUS 1757

 Euploea eyndhovii distinctissima  FRUHSTORFER 1911

Euploea mulciber paupera  STAUDINGER 1889 - male


Day 5 

We went to the village in the Napsan area. We got a local, Rudy, a nice guy to show us around. The first thing to greet us were the common Danaus melanippus edmondii LESSON 1837. It looked just like a D. genutia turning white. To our surprise, a male T. trojana came down to feed on the wild flowers. My camera betrayed me at that critical moment. The autofocus did not work and I missed this rare chance. I got only a few very poor shots. Other than that, the only thing worth mentioning was the long tailed Lycaenid - Drupadia theda unicolor STAUDINGER 1889. We all failed to take the upper surface because it was too high. It was brilliant sky blue on the upper surface, well, perhaps next time. But we did get a good shot of another endemic nymph. Many female Lexias pardalis tethys TSUKADA 1991 was seen on the ground with a lone male on the treetop. They were the same as the one we saw in Ching Mai, Thailand.

Danaus melanippus edmondii LESSON 1837

Lexias pardalis tethys TSUKADA 1991 - (male) Pareronia valeria palawana FRUHSTORFER 1900 - (female)
Athyma speciosa speciosa STAUDINGER 1889


Since we wanted to catch the early flight next morning in comfort, we went  back to the Puerto Princesa, the capital town of Palawan that afternoon. On our way, we came across a valley with wild flowers on the tree canopy. There were at least two females and three to four males T. trojana feeding on them, but they were too far away. Besides these, we also saw a few Troides  and Pachilopta. I screwed up my second chance here with the same problem with my camera and was quite upset.

After we checked in our hotel, we treated ourselves with a very good dinner with lobster, stingray, prawn etc etc. costing less than HK$150 for 3 people. 


Day 6 

The whole day was chaotic, getting back to Manila, losing one ticket, buying back another, getting on the flight to Bacolod, etc. etc. We arrived the hotel at dusk. There was a procession going in front of our hotel. Lydia said it was the Holy Thursday procession. It will be held every year in every major cities all over the Philippines. We were treated with dinner by one of Lydia's friend in the city.


Day 7 

We went up the Mt. Kanalon by way of the Mambukal Hot Spring Resort.  There were a lot of fruit bats hanging on the trees. Their size were huge. After some normal formality of signing in at the entrance of the Natural Reserve , we walked up the path leading to the waterfall. As usual, there were the Ypthima and Mycalesis . A few Cirrochroa tyche tyche C. & R. FELDER 1861, some Lycaenids and Danaids were seen. A Faunis phaon carfinia FRUHSTORFER 1911 similar to the one in Mikiling, at the  University of the Philippines, L. S. campus  was seen. An Amathusid looking like the Discophora sondaica tulliana STICHEL 1905 of Hong Kong, a few skippers, including a Notocrypta species were seen. The most interesting one was the Halpe spp. The Map wing looked different from ours in Hong Kong and a Vagrans sinha sinha KOLLAR 1844 similar to ours. A small Caleta roxus angustior STAUDINGER 1889 and some others ended the day.


Fruit bats

Cirrochroa tyche tyche C. & R. FELDER 1861

Udara spp.

Jamides spp.

Faunis phaon carfinia FRUHSTORFER 1911

Caleta roxus angustior STAUDINGER 1889

Cyrestis maenalis negros MARTIN 1903 

Vagrans sinha sinha KOLLAR 1844

      Ypthima sempera sempera C. & R. FELDER 1863

Day 8 

The whole day was a disaster. We wasted this day except for the beautiful Horaga syrinx ashinica MURAYAM & OKAMURA 1973. The driver told us that there WAS an alternate way to go up the mountain. So we followed him. It took us 4 hours to get there to find out that there would be 20 Kilometers waiting for us to walk up the mountain. We asked for an alternative. He took us to another resort where there was a waterfall. Some misunderstanding with the wardens together with the lack of time forced us to go back. Luckily I got the picture of the Horaga on the cliff. The cliff was almost 80 degree steep. If there was no undergrowth for me to grip on, I dared not go. There were also a lot of Arhopala on the treetops. If they stayed undisturbed, I would not notice them. But their habit of chasing each other hence revealing their brilliant blue wings betrayed their existence. It was a pity that they were too far away for me to get any good photos. I also got a shot of a moth mimicking a Neptis and a Phalanta. 

Horaga syrinx ashinica MURAYAM & OKAMURA 1973 - male

Day 9 

This was the last day. We would not take any risk, so we went the old way. There were a lot of Catopsilia at the entrance. Some were mating; one was caught in a spider-web struggling to get free. A Papilio alphenor ledebouria ESCHSCHOLTZ 1821 looking like our P. polytes polytes LINNAEUS 1758 without the tail stayed long enough for us to take a lot of pictures. All sorts of Satyrids including the beautiful one with metallic blue upperwings, the brown Mycalesis, the Melanitis looking like our M. leda leda LINNAEUS 1758 with white tips were seen. A female Euploea mulciber kochi MOORE 1883 laying eggs. and a Delias henningia henningia ESCHSCHOLTZ 1821 looking very much the same as our D. pasithoe pasithoe LINNAEUS 1767  were also photographed. Our old friend, the transparent Parantica vitrina oenone BUTLER 1865 was also there. Again, it was very difficult to take a good shot showing its transparency. But we did get very good shots of both the male and female of the Cethosia luzonia pariana SEMPER 1888, they are endemic to the Philippines. A very fresh Zethera musides SEMPER 1878  was also seen. Actually I got a very torn one two days ago, but this one was really fresh. A sorties of Pierids including a male Pareronia boebera arsamota FRUHSTORFER 1910 were also seen. The grand finale was a large Amathusid. This time the bait was set up by me. Other beautiful butterflies seen and not photographed were the Papilio daedalus daedalus C. & R. FELDER 1861 with its brilliant green wings, the Papilio rumanzovia rumanzovia ESCHSCHOLTZ 1821with its large patch of red on its hindwings and pale blue sheen on its upperwings, and the last but not least the Lexias satrapes amalana JUMALON 1970, a large Nymph with brilliant purplish blue wings. This is the only regret of our trip. We saw it three times, yet we missed all the three chances. It is so beautiful and large that you have to see it to believe it. Well there is a Chinese saying ?Heaven will not grant every wish ?  We hoped for better luck next time. We had to rush back to the hotel and get to the airport to catch the last plane to Manila.


Catopsilla pyranthe pyranthe  LINNAEUS 1758 Ideopsis juventa manillana MOORE 1883  Borbo cinnara WALLACE 1866 
  Euploea spp.    Mycalesis ita teatus FRUHSTORFER 1911 

           Acrophtalmia yamashitai UÉMURA & YAMAGUCHI 1982

         Ypthima sempera sempera C. & R. FELDER 1863  Borbo cinnara WALLACE 1866 

Papilio alphenor ledebouria ESCHSCHOLTZ 1821

Catopsilla pomona pomona FABRICUS 1775 Potanthus mingo mingo EDWARDS 1866  Ypthima sempera sempera C. & R. FELDER 1863
Ypthima sempera sempera C. & R. FELDER 1863 Ptychandra negrosensis BANKS, HOLLOWAY & BARLOW 1976 - male                Melanitis atrax soloni M. & T. OKANO 1991
Euploea mulciber kochi MOORE 1883 Delias henningia henningia ESCHSCHOLTZ 1821 Jamides spp.
 Acrophtalmia yamashitai UÉMURA & YAMAGUCHI 1982 Lasippa illigera hegesias  FRUHSTORFER 1912 Parantica vitrina oenone BUTLER 1865
Miletus spp. Zethera musides SEMPER 1878 - male
Cethosia luzonia pariana SEMPER 1888 (Male- centre, Female - right)

Tagiades japetus titus  PLÖTZ 1884

Pareronia boebera arsamota FRUHSTORFER 1910

Discophora dodong SCHRÖDER & TREADAWAY 1981

Day 10 

Got up at 4 a.m. and catched the first flight back to Hong Kong, end of the journey with lots of photos and a very tired body.

(prepared by J. J. Young)