Chin’s Butterfly Gallery
The Tawny Coster comes to the Klang Valley
By Chin Fah Shin

THE YEAR 2002 must have brought "a bit of flutter" to some eagle-eyed butterfly watchers. This was the year the Tawny Coster (Acraea violae) came to the Klang Valley. Well, it might have arrived earlier, but so far as I know this was the first time this species had been photographed in Selangor. Two enthusiasts ~ Simon Chan and Ng Tham Fatt ~ have contributed their photos to this website. You can see them under subfamily Acraeinae.
  Simon Chan spotted the butterfly when he came home to Petaling Jaya in February for the Chinese New Year. He sent me an email, but perhaps because I was busy at that time his discovery went unnoticed ... until Ng Tham Fatt emailed to me a digital photo sometime in August asking if I could identify the species. I looked up Corbet & Pendlebury's The Butterflies of the Malay Peninsula, fourth edition, and I could not then find one that resembles the species in his photo. I went through Fleming's Butterflies of West Malaysia and Singapore, second edition, also with no result.
  Later, I got back to Simon regarding his email, and he said the species was Acraea violae (now known as Acraea terpsicore), which may well be a new record for Peninsular Malaysia. Since his first sighting in February, Simon has succeeded in breeding out one specimen from some caterpillars that he found feeding on a species of Passiflora (P. suberosa).
  For a butterfly that has until so recently been unknown in these parts, Acraea violae seems to be flourishing. Tham Fatt said in an email to me: "Since I first spotted this butterfly, I have observed this butterfly almost weekly throughout the Klang Valley and southern Selangor. It seems to be very common but usually occurs singly. A good place to spot this butterfly is near open ground in housing areas, particularly around Subang Jaya, Petaling Jaya and Jinjang."
  The southward migration of A. violae from Thailand had not been totally unexpected. Brother Amnuay Pinratana and J. N. Eliot noted in their book Butterflies in Thailand Volume Three, (second edition published in 1996) that the species is "a native of
The Tawny Coster (Acraea terpsicore
The Tawny Coster (Acraea terpsicore). Photo courtesy of © Ng Tham Fatt.

Sri Lanka and peninsular India which became established in Thailand a few years ago, presumably by accidental human agency, and has now spread to the Malaysian States of Perlis and Penang";. Simon visited Pulau Langkawi in late November 2002 and the first butterfly he saw on the day he arrived on that island was A. violae (now renamed terpsicore).
  Corbet & Pendlebury (fourth edition, published in 1992) has a brief section on Subfamily Acraeinae, but makes no mention of A. violae and carries no photo of this species. It does, however, have a photo of Acraea issoria and this is what it says: "So far no representative of the subfamily has been found in the Malay Peninsula, but Acraea issoria (Hübner) (Plate 21, fig.1) occurs commonly from north India to south Burma, and in the hills in Sumatra, Java and Bali. It may yet become established in the Cameron Highlands, where a large area of suitable habitat has been created in recent years".
  So, if Violae has eluded you so far, head for the hills! And who knows? You just may even have the luck to meet Issoria. ~ © Chin Fah Shin, January 3, 2003.