Friday, December 27, 2013

Pupa of a Crow Butterfly- End to the butterfly series

Today I end this series on butterflies, with this shining pupa of a Common Crow (Euploea core) I spotted recently. I managed to present 41 butterflies that visited my garden in the month of October. There were many more, that came by, but because of their constant flight I could never photograph many of them. Nevertheless, this photographic census was quite a learning experience for me. I never imagined I would end up with 41 different butterflies, in a month. There are many butterflies that are seasonal and arrive to our place during different months of the year.
It is said that the number of butterflies, indicate the health of an ecosystem. An annual census like this will probably give me an indication of the direction our  eco-system is heading into. Now that I am sailing, a small breathing time for my blog. I will be back in a few months, with more posts and I hope you will all enjoy as I do posting them. 

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Brown King Crow

Merry Christmas to all readers and I hope you all are having the best of the season. The Forty first butterfly in the 'Butterfly from my garden' series is the 'Brown King Crow' ( Euploea klugii )

This is also the 300th post on this blog. The first post was on 10th Nov. 2006 and it has been 7 years, 1 month and 15 days since I began blogging here. Just like the title of the first post 'Snails pace' the 300 posts indeed have come at a snails pace. 
This butterfly visits us at noon and stays till the the evening. Loves the marigold flowers and stays quite steadily perched on flowers even in heavy winds. I will not take too much of your Christmas time with today's post. Have a lovely day.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Common Palmfly

The fortieth butterfly in the 'butterfly from my garden' series is the Common Palmfly ( Elymnias hypermnestra ). I see this butterfly everyday perched on the ornamental palms of our garden. This photograph though was clicked when it landed inside our house one day. 

The only time I see its uppersides are when it is in flight, else it always sits with its wings folded. The female mimics the striped tiger. This butterfly belongs to the Nymphalids family ( remember from previous post, that there are five major butterfly families). The Nymphalids is a large group and occurs in almost all shapes and colours. Males of this family are pretty quarrelsome and can be seen policing their territory. The first pair of legs in these butterflies have brush-like dense tufts, but being imperfectly developed and clawless, these legs are not used for perching and walking. This family also has many sub-families and like the males of these family, the taxonomists themselves keep quarreling about the exact status of these sub-families. 

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Tricoloured Pied Flat

The thirty-ninth butterfly in the 'butterflies from my garden' series is the Tricoloured Pied Flat ( Coladenia indrani

Above is the underside of the butterfly.

Of the different flowers in our garden, the butterflies give the Roses, gladioli, dahlias, chrysanthemums and lilies a complete miss. They prefer the ixora's , cockscomb, marigolds and the plethora of weeds that exist.
A few also visit Curry plants, lime plant and false Ashoka tree.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Lime Butterfly

The thirty eight butterfly from my garden is the Lime Butterfly ( Papilio demoleus ), this is a very common Indian butterfly.

It visits our garden at noon, and seems to enjoy good sunshine. They love to mud puddle, and I had blogged about them many years ago, when I spotted them in Bangalore mud puddling.
Like their name suggests, they lay their eggs of citrus plants and are known to migrate. Since the butterfly visits us only during sunny days, there was more than adequate light available to photograph them- evident from the washed out flowers and leaves in the above photograph. 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Common Wanderer

If you see the butterfly featured on October 7th, The Dark Wanderer , you will see a striking resemblance to today's butterfly- The Common Wanderer ( Pereronia valeria )

Both the male and the female Common Wanderer are featured in the photograph. The female is perched on the flower, while the male, although appears perched is actually in flight.
Both these butterflies had come to our Ixora plant and it was a pleasure watching the male trying to impress upon the female, with his acrobatic flying tricks. It indeed had quite some tricks up it butterfly sleeves.

Like I mentioned above, the Common wanderer, looks similar to the Dark Wanderer in field. The male Dark Wanderer had broad wing margins, which are often unspotted, when compared to the Common Wanderer.
The female mimics the Blue Tiger. 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Common Leopard.

When I decided to take a photographic butterfly census of my garden, never in my wildest dreams had I imagined to count so many butterflies. I was expecting about fifteen species and the tally today is thirty six.
Today's Special is Common Leopard ( Phalanta phalantha ) .

Not only do the mammals have a leopard and a tiger, the butterflies their's too.

This is a common Indian restless butterfly, which is territorial and pugnacious . Flies very swiftly and found of flowers. This was one of the easiest photograph to click. I was sitting out in the porch, with my beloved, when she noticed an "orange butterfly". Another one for the count she said. Fortunately my camera was besides me. Without moving an inch on my butt, I managed to get this lovely flying beauty.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Common Jay

The thirty fifth butterfly in the series is the Common Jay ( Graphium doson ). The butterfly is on constant flight and despite all my patience, I could not find it perched steady , even for a fleeting moment. 

Like all other butterflies, the Common Jay too needs minerals. It gets its minerals from damp soil or animal urine. The males use a filter feeding technique to get their minerals from soil. It sucks water, with its long proboscis,  from which minerals like sodium is extracted. It constantly pumps water through its body and expels the surplus from its anus. This expelled water is used to further dissolve minerals in the ground and is re-ingested.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Mottled Emigrant

The thirty fourth butterfly in the series " Butterfly from my garden" is the Mottled Emigrant ( Catopsilia pyranthe )

The butterfly is called an Emigrant, because of its strong tendency to migrate. These butterflies deposit  their eggs on plants, which the caterpillar will eventually feed. The butterfly chooses such a plant by 'tasting' them with her feet. Spines on the females feet, pierce the leaf surface and release tiny quantity of chemicals. These chemicals then aid the butterfly to identify its food plant.
The cassia plants are the emigrants favourite plant.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Grey Pansy

After all the confusion with the Bushbrowns, it is time to move back into some stable ground. The thirtythird, butterfly in the series- "Butterflies from my Garden" is the Grey Pansy ( Junonia atlites )

It visits us at noon,after 1PM. The butterfly is common in areas of heavy rainfall. It prefers areas around freshwater marshes and paddy fields. Keeps a large distance from people and quite alert to any disturbances around.   

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Dark Branded Bushbrown

Another Bushbrown to add to all the confusion among bushbrowns. The third Bushbrown featured today is probably the Dark-Branded Bushbrown (Mycalesis mineus).

 With varying forms, with changing seasons, the bushbrowns are not identity friendly to me atleast.  So as I type this post, thoughts are running in my mind, whether to post this as a Dark Branded Bushbrown or to just keep quite, taking cue from Peter Smetacek, who wrote me "... but one really needs the specimens to open one's mouth further... ". Nevertheless, sharing it with you. 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Long-Brand Bushbrown

This is allegedly a Long-Brand Bushbrown ( Mycalesis visala). You can read my previous post to know why I say 'allegedly'.

All this confusion about bushbrown species makes photographing butterflies much more action packed. I cannot take it for granted that I have already photographed a particular species, it just may turn out to be a new one all together.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Common Bushbrown

The thirtieth species from my garden is the Common Bushbrown, ( Mycalesis perseus )

We have many of these hanging around the bamboo grove and the compost pit. They are easily recognisable as a group, all being some shade of brown on both wing surfaces, and marked with a series of conspicuous ocelli, and a single straight median line across the underside of both wings.
The difficult part is to identify the exact species. I was so flummoxed by this problem, that I decided to write to the person who inspired the series in the first place- Peter Smetacek himself.
The genial Peter, got back to me immediately and wrote " ...I usually do not put names to these. They need to be dissected for certain identification. In the case of the bushbrown, one needs to see the brands (areas of specialized scales) between the forewing and hindwing, in the region of overlap.... "

This fact only reinforced what I knew, photographs alone cannot be an infallible taxonomy tool; the good 'ol running behind and catching a butterfly too counts. 

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Rice Swift

Like the name suggests, the Rice Swift ( Borbo cinnara ) is mostly found where rice is cultivated. This is again a small butterfly and I mostly spotted it when it was on flight.

One note of caution, many butterfly orders like this Borbo, cannot be truly identified just from photographs. They need a microscopic examination to correctly ascertain the right species. Hence we can assume it to be a rice swift or just consider it a representative sample of the Borbo.
The Rice Swift, prefers sunny open places, where it flies close to the ground, often settling down on plants to bask or feed on flowers. Flight is swift and rapid. Active from morning to late afternoon.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Dark Grass Blue

When the word butterfly is mentioned, the first thing that comes to my mind is a colourful flying fairy in my garden. But there are many inconspicuous butterflies too. For instance this Dark Grass Blue (  Zizeeria karsandra ) which is not only small, but also has a drab brown colour,

Most of the time these butterflies blend in beautifully with the surrounding foliage. Its only during flight that you notice one of these. It has a ground level flight and loves grassy patches.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Common Four-ring

The twenty seventh butterfly in the series is the Common Four-ring ( Ypthima huebneri ).

Since I started this photographic census of the butterflies of our garden, my wife, Aarina, too has been quite interested in learning the names of butterflies. Infact most of the butterflies in this series were identified by her, while I was editing the images ( which does not take more than 2-3 minutes).

A few months ago, butterflies were identified by their colour at home; "Oh! thats a blue butterfly" "Wow! such a pretty orange butterfly". Today the lines are, "there goes a glassy tiger ". "Oh is that a Striped tiger or a plain tiger on the Ixora bush" This butterfly count has been such a rewarding and learning experience for all of us.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Blue Mormon

I have never measured it, but this Blue Mormon (Papilio polymnestor ) is probably the biggest butterfly in our garden. 

It is one of the most handsome butterflies, with blue flashing colour on its wings. It is bigger than some of the birds that visit us. The only plant that it visits in our garden is a Ixora bush. It takes about five minutes to visit all the flowers on that bush and after that it is gone.
I had featured a Common Mormon as a second butterfly in the series, the question I asked my self is- Why were these butterflies named Mormon, i.e. after a American religious group. A bit of digging I came up with this tit-bit. Harish Gaonkar, of the Natural History Museum in London, recently wrote that "the origins of giving common English names to organisms, particularly butterflies for tropical species started in India around the mid 19th century . . . The naming of Mormons evolved slowly. I think the first to get such a name was the Common Mormon (Papilio polytes), because it had three different females, a fact that could only have been observed in the field, and this they did in India. The name obviously reflected the . . . Mormon sect in America, which as we know, practiced polygamy."
Interesting theory I must admit.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Common Gull

The twenty fifth butterfly in the "butterfly from my garden" series is the Common Gull ( Cepora nerissa ).

It so happens that some butterflies are found just across the fence in the neighbours garden and stubbornly refuse to come to our garden. I was at times tempted to cheat a little bit, after all isn't just beyond the wall part of my garden. No I said to myself time and again, I had to stick to my theme, in word and spirit. This Common Gull was one such butterfly, that was happy flying around a few bushes, beyond our fence. I clicked a few photographs of it, but had to wait for more than two weeks, when it finally decided to pay our garden a visit. I wasted no time, in rushing indoors, getting my camera gear and going no holds barred on the shutter button.
This butterfly is generally found in dry plains, around in ill-kept farmlands and scrub forests. 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Common Hedge Blue

One of the many tiny butterflies that have made our garden their abode is this Common Hedge Blue  (Acytolepis puspa ). 

October has been a potpourri of days when it comes to weather. We had days with heavy rains and days which were hot and dry.  This Hedge blue, loves hot weather and I spotted it only on sunny days.
It is a common indian butterfly and was first described by Thomas Horsfield  an Americam Physician and naturalist in the early 1800's.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Common Sailer

The twenty third butterfly in the series is the Common sailer ( Neptis hylas ).
Honestly, this is a very rare visitor to our garden. In about 2 weeks spent photographing butterflies, I have seen this sailer twice or thrice.

It has a graceful sailing flight and enjoys rising up in the air with the thermals.
Hylas was the son of King Theiodamas of the Dryopians.Hylas was kidnapped by nymphs of the spring of Pegae, that fell in love with him and vanished without a trace
Both these photographs were clicked with a telephoto lens on a tripod. Even the compound eyes are clearly visible in the photograph.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Plain Tiger

In the previous post, I had featured a striped tiger. Now you steal those stripes, you get a Plain Tiger (Danaus chrysippus ).

For reasons mentioned before, this butterfly too is mimicked by many butterflies like the Leopard Lacewing, Tamil Lacewing, female Indian Fritillary, and female Danaid eggfly. Just like the Striped Tiger, the male of the Plain tiger too has pouch containing scent scales.
The butterfly is named after Chrysippus, the Greek Stioc Philosopher, who created an original system of propositional logic in order to better understand the workings of the universe and role of humanity within it.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Striped Tiger

Not only the mammals have a tiger, the butterflies too have their own tigers. Today's butterfly, the Striped Tiger ( Danaus genutia ) is dreaded by birds.

Its body contains the toxins of the plants, it consumed as a caterpillar. Any bird trying to eat it, will have an experience of  life time and its bright orange colour more than amply advertises this fact.
A pretty common butterfly in our garden. The male has a small pouch on the hindwing ( oval shaped) that carries scent. When attacked it fakes death and oozes nauseating liquid which makes it smell and taste terrible. It has the ability to recover soon after an attack.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Tailed Jay

The twentieth butterfly in the Butterfly from my garden series is the 'Tailed Jay' ( Graphium agamemnon ). 

In the photograph it is sitting on the leaf of the pumpkin creeper, else this restless flier prefers our custard apple tree or the Ashoka tree. 
Among insects, is a large group called 'Lepidoptera' ( meaning scaly wing). Butterflies and moths come under this group. Butterflies themselves are classified into two superfamilies; One is the 'Hesperioidea' which has only one family in it - the Skippers (Hesperiidae). The other superfamily is the Papilionoidea and encompasses four families: Swallowtails ( Papilionidea), Whites and Yellows ( Pieridae) , Brush-footed butterfly ( Nymphalidae) and Blues ( Lycaenidae). 
India has about 1501 Species , of which 321 are skippers, 107 Swallowtails, 109 whites and Yellows, 521 Brush-footed and 443 Blues. 
The Tailed Jay belongs to the swallowtail family.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Common Jezebel.

If at all I had to choose the most hardworking butterfly in our garden, I would without a thought pick up the Common Jezebel ( Delias eucharis )

Jezebel was a princess, and the daughter of Ethbaal, king of Tyre, as mentioned in the bible. But unlike a princess this Jezebel, works tirelessly for its nectar. It is the first to arrive in our garden and probably the last to leave. It spends most of the day on one single Lantana bush, occasionally foraging to the nearby marigold plants too. 

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Bamboo Treebrown

Just like the name suggests, I found this Bamboo Treebrown ( Lethe europa ) perched on a bamboo stalk. 

This butterfly is often seen in our bamboo grove, usually during a rainy day. I had to brave quite few red ants, which have built a nest for themselves, to get close to this butterfly. I have also seen this butterfly feeding on rotten fruits from our compost pit and also reportedly loves crabs. This now becomes the eighteenth butterfly spotted in out garden (within this month).

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Danaid Eggfly

The seventeenth species in the 'butterfly from my garden' series is the Danaid Eggfly ( Hypolimnas misippus) The below photographs are of the female, which mimic the Plain Tiger ( remember my previous post on the reason for mimicry) 

The below photographs are of the male.

The male of the butterfly is quite similar to the Great eggfly ( featured a few days ago) and can sometimes be quite a challenge in the field to discern.
If the male is sitting on bare ground like this- it is probably soaking in minerals from urine of animals or humans.

So why is an eggfly called an eggfly? Several member of this genus are extraordinary parents, compared to other butterflies. They safeguard their offspring with a lot of care. Prior to laying eggs they ensure that they are clear from any predators, especially ants. Once they lay their eggs, they stand guard over them, like a protective umbrella protecting them from wasps. They stay this way, until the eggs are hatched and the caterpillars have dispersed.  Meanwhile the protective female dies in this position. This butterfly is also infected by a bacteria called Wolbachia, which kills only the males.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013


An unusual name for today's butterfly - Psyche ( Leptosia nina) . This is a late comer to our garden, arrives at about 11 AM and stays well until about 2 PM. 

What fascinates me about this beauty, is its flight. Sometimes it just drifts like a small piece of paper that floats in the air while at other times, it has this random jerky flight, that makes predicting its flight path next to impossible. The flight of this butterfly has also resulted it in getting some nice names like 'wandering snowflake' and flip flop.

Well this also puts me into a story telling mode. The story of Cupid and Psyche. Psyche was the youngest of three princesses and was so transcendentally beautiful, that Aphrodite herself was jealous of her. This jealousy meant that no mortal dared to aspire the honour of her hand. Hence as her sisters were married, Psyche remained unwedded. Her father consulted the oracle of Delphi and managed to get her married to Cupid. Cupid had put a condition that Psyche should only value his love and not her form and so should never see him. For some time Psyche was obedient to this injunction of her immortal spouse, but slowly her curiosity got the better of her. So one day, she woke up in the middle of the night and took a lamp and slowly approached the couch on which Cupid was sleeping. There she saw the beautiful form of the God of love and was overcome by surprise and admiration. Psyche stooped down to gaze at him more closely and unwittingly dropped some burning oil on his shoulder. Cupid woke up and saw Psyche looking at him. He sorrowfully reproached her and spreading his wings flew away. The distraught Psyche tried to end her life by jumping into the nearest river. But Pan, the god of shepherds, saved her and consoled her. After a long unwinding story, beyond the scope of this post. Psyche was made to perform many harsh tasks set by Cupids mother Venus. Jupiter then made her immortal and Psyche and Cupid were married again. The name Psyche is both 'Soul' and 'Butterfly' in Greek.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Peacock Pansy

When I started this series of "Butterflies from my garden" I was hoping to at least photograph fifteen butterfly species. I have now crossed my initial estimate and this Peacock Pansy ( Junonia almana ) is the sixteenth in the series.
This is a common garden visitor, who maintains a very large distance from me and my tripod. Hence all photographs of this butterfly are clicked for a great distance. This species thrives on the plant Hygrophila auriculata, which is also used extensively in Ayurvedic medicine.

The butterfly as visible, is orange with prominent eyespots- now the question we may ask is; why do butterflies have eyespots ( many of which even looks like eyes)? I have come across two interesting but contrasting theories. One believes, that the eyespots act as target for the predators and their attack is deflected towards the eyespot instead of some vital part of the body. Losing bit of wing edges does not adversely affect the butterfly. Another theory states that predators don't attack from the front, they prefer to sneak from behind and catch their prey. So for a predator, the eyespots give the wing the appearance of a face and will attack the butterfly from its real front ( imagining it to be the back side). This will give the butterfly ample warning time, to fly off. You can accept either of the ideas or any one that you feel suits the best.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Great Eggfly

The Great Eggfly (Hypolimnas bolina ) is a common Indian butterfly which loves living in forests, but does not mind visiting that occasional garden. 

Males of the Great eggfly are supposedly territorial and pugnacious. The above photograph is of the upperside of a male while the lower one is of the underside. Like many other butterflies this one too has subdued underside and brighter upper sides (the ovals are iridescent blue); butterflies have this for a reason.

When the wings are folded together at rest, the subdued colours provide a camouflage. When disturbed, they open their wings and fly off, flashing their brilliant upperwing colour that momentarily startles the predator. This also gives the butterfly an opportunity to fly away and disappear among dried foliage, leaving the predator to search for a colourful butterfly.

The below are the photographs of the Female, which is a excellent mimic of the Crow butterflies ( see my previous post, to know all about mimicry)

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Grey Count

Another royal visitor to our garden, the Grey Count ( Tanaecia lepidea ). It's not very frequently found in south India and I was quite lucky to have found it perched among banana leaves. 

It was quite dark, and I had to use the on camera flash to illuminate it, despite using a 400 mm lens. The flash barely illuminated the butterfly, but was at least enough for a steady hand held shot.
The royal butterfly had a graceful poise and flight. I see it spending most of its time in the dark confines of the banana trees. Hoping for some more royals in the coming days.