I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly dreaming I am a man. ~Chuang Tzu
How did the name “butterfly” come about? A more appropriate name, according to Jane Goodall, would be “flutter by”. Since this is what it does. According to folklore, probably because they were thought to be stealing milk, and the name stuck.
Speaking of naming butterflies, I was first introduced to Khew when Hort Park opened its butterfly enclosure. He had been instrumental in the design and choice of butterflies, being head of a butterfly photographic enthusiasts group. I associated his name with the Kew Gardens, and since I often saw him in the NParks events, it was not a far-fetched association. Khew, introduced me to the Commodore caterpillar, which I had taken a photograph of. And I waited with bated breadth as he was about to publish a book on butterflies.
Just like the NParks 1001 Plants Bible which I’ve dog-earred, I thought I could rely on the book to identify the butterflies around my garden. He did it. A beautifully produced 344 pages directory with each species painstakingly catalogued.
Until I realised, that butterflies don’t stay long enough or open their wings a second longer for me to flip to the right page. Say you spot a black and white striped butterfly, as I did, one hovering around our bourganvilla. It very well could be the Lance Sergeant or Studded Sergeant or the Dot-Dash Sergeant or the Malay Staff Sergeant or the Color Sergeant.
To my dear husband’s query if I’ve been able to identify the different butterflies in our garden, I’m not going to be suck into this, and willing to leave la Papillon unclassified.
Khew’s book is nonetheless a gem. By the way, he’s a formidable architect and managed to combine his work passion with CSR. What a greenie.
According to the book, there are about 20,000 species of butterflies in the world. Singapore alone has about 300 species. These figures are probably guesstimates, but already testament to the rich biodiversity in our tiny island.
Khew’s book can be found at the website below. If you’re interested to photograph butterflies, join the Butterfly Circle of enthusiasts. Very passionate, knowledgeable and generous group of hobbyists around. Be warned, their cameras and accessories cost up to the price of a car.