Documenting winged beauties

Documenting winged beauties

butterfly trail

Common mormon. Photos by Author

India is home to more than 1,400 species of butterflies. These winged beauties are not just attractive but indicative of a balanced ecosystem. They play a significant role in pollination and pest control. And they are a crucial link in the food chain. Butterflies are also known as bio-indicators as they are extremely sensitive to climate change and prefer being in a healthy environment. 

“Butterflies have four distinct and interesting stages in their lifecycle. From eggs to becoming larva (caterpillar), to pupa (chrysalis), and then butterflies (adult), their lifetime is an eventful journey. The fact is that we know very little about butterflies”, says Prachi Singh, who studies and nurtures butterflies in her home garden in Faridabad.

Prachi and other naturalists, nature educators and subject experts were part of the Titli Tyar 2021, an annual event held in September in Ramnagar, Corbett National Park, Uttarakhand. 

Experts and enthusiasts participated in the exercise in which butterflies in the area were tracked and documented, and awareness sessions were held. 

Why should Corbett be known for tigers and not tiger butterflies? Based on this ambitious thought, Titli Tyar (Butterfly in my backyard) was conceived last year. 

The effort made for an engaging way to learn. Caterpillars and adults are easy to spot but I was thrilled to see the eggs and the pupa for the first time. A butterfly trail feels incomplete without picking out some of the names like common tiger, common quaker, common pierrot, grass demon, red pierrot, common sailor, common mormon. On the trail, we also had an opportunity to discuss the anatomy of butterflies-- the scales on their wings, their defence mechanism, the host plants and much more.  

September is also the month of butterflies. Month-long butterfly festivals are is observed to celebrate the Indian butterflies every year. Butterfly experts, enthusiasts and organisations conduct surveys in their regions and make lists of butterfly types. For instance, the state of Haryana conducted its first butterfly survey in 10 areas. To garner further interest, online workshops, quizzes, webinars, photography and videography contests and butterfly trails are also organised. 

There is no denying the fact that butterflies are important components of our rich ecological diversity. Not to mention that their mere sight adds zest to the moment. It is always fun to go looking out for them. To tap this attraction, there must be niche tourism programmes around them. While birdwatching has become a popular hobby, we are still warming up to idea of butterfly walks.

During the exercise, I not just learned about butterflies, but also some of the host plants. The best part about it all is that I have carried back all the knowledge back to my city as well. One can experience the joy of seeing and learning about them anywhere.