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.