The butterfly effect: Winged beauties of Chandigarh

These words from a poem by William Wordsworth come to one's mind as one walks down the Madhya Marg and Panjab University (PU) campus in Chandigarh and beholds hundreds of butterflies fluttering in the sky.

Over 70 species of butterflies are found in Chandigarh. The smallest butterfly, Freyeria Putli, with a wing size of 16 mm to 18 mm, is also found here and can be seen flying very slowly near thick grass.

According to Varinder Walia, a professor in the department of Zoology at Panjab University, this is a seasonal phenomenon.

"As per the normal reproduction cycle of butterflies, this is the most conducive time of the year for them to lay eggs. New leaves come out and they always prefer to lay their eggs on these fresh and delicate leaves," Walia said.

Walia, who has also written a book on butterflies, "Butterflies of North-West India", added: "There are certain host trees in some areas of the region. Butterflies keep on flying from one tree to another, presenting spectacular scenery for the onlookers."

"On seeing these hordes of butterflies in the sky, many people claim that they are migrating uphill as there is a strong possibility of an earthquake in the plains. This is absolute rubbish as the butterflies are just shifting from one host tree to another in search of fresh leaves," Walia said.

Explaining the huge number, Walia said: "If there are 100 butterflies and if each of them lays 250 eggs, then in a span of a few days there would be around 25,000 butterflies. It is seasonal and happens every year."

R.K. Kohli, head of the botany department of PU said: "There are plenty of cassia siamea and chukrasia tabularis trees in Chandigarh, especially on Madhya Marg and in PU campus. They attract butterflies and are a good source of food for them."

"Cassia siamea is an ornamental tree with colourful flowers. Butterflies are attracted towards the colour and nectar of its flowers. Whereas chukrasia has no flowers but its dense shade is the best place for butterflies to take shelter," added Kohli.

Kohli agreed that this year there has been a marked increase in the number of butterflies in and around Chandigarh. He attributed it to increased humidity in the environment, which is a most suitable condition for their breeding.

Even the city-based environmentalists and youngsters are quite enthused on seeing these pretty creatures.

"Every year we wait for these months when we can see butterflies in good number. We also organise workshops for students during which we sit near the trees and discover different species of butterflies," Rohit Ruhella, an environmentalist based here said.

"This phenomenon will continue for at least the next couple of months," he added.

Sidharatha Sharma, a student of fine arts, said: "It's quite refreshing to see hundreds of butterflies all together. Along with my friends we are also clicking their photographs, and we are planning to organise a photo exhibition of butterflies in the coming days."

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