The Malacca Butterfly and Reptile Sanctuary today announced its success in breeding in-house the tree nymph, the world’s largest butterfly. (Pix by HASSAN OMAR)

MALACCA: The Malacca Butterfly and Reptile Sanctuary today announced its success in breeding in-house the tree nymph, the world’s largest butterfly.

The butterfly which is indigenous to Southeast Asia has a wingspan between 135 and 165mm.

According to the sanctuary, the key to breeding the tree nymph, or the Idea lynceus, has unequivocally been the right habitat for the butterfly.

The sanctuary’s managing director Gerrard Wong said research into the butterfly’s reproductive process began in 2005, when the park collected 10 different types of trees.

The butterflies were then release and observation began to identify the chosen tree and habitat for the tree nymph to lay its eggs.

Through this experiment, the Aganosma corymbosa was singled out as the preferred habitat of the tree nymph.

According to Wong, between 2006 and 2015, the park began planting the trees, and in 2016, they started breeding the butterflies.

Wong said breeding was conducted throughout last year, which resulted in the current 500 tree nymph successfully bred.

“Apart from that, the lifespan of a butterfly is for 5 days. We conducted research to identify why these things happen. Butterflies do not have mouths to chew food, but suck nectar from flowers as the main source of energy to live,” said Wong.

“Furthermore, the butterflies need at least the nectar of 20 flowers as its source of energy, thus lack of nectar in the flowers causes butterflies to have insufficient energy.

“But we managed to create a formula, where we can create artificial nectar, following 10 years of research.”

With this formula, Wong said, the butterflies are now able to live as long as 28 days because they have a limitless energy source.

The artificial nectar tube is said to equal the nectar volume of up to 100 flowers.

“This shows a good increase, so our target is to breed as many as 500 specimens per month of this butterfly,” said Wong.

He added there was also a need to focus on the tree population which acts as the breeding ground for the butterfly, ensuring that the butterfly population do not exceed that of the trees, so that the ecosystem is in balance.

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