Sunday, May 15, 2005

Butterflies flit past B’lore

DH News Service Bangalore:

Many people do not know much about Indian butterflies and to study these a lot of concerted effort is required.

There is a fairly large bunch of migrants passing through the city. Nobody knows where they come from, why they moved from their homes, or where they are headed for. It might be because of lack of food, or because it is that time of the year when they make babies. No one is certain.

DH photo / S Eshwar

Because, as S Karthikeyan, State Director of the World Wildlife Federation explains, “unfortunately, we really do not know much about Indian butterflies”. Simply to study these butterflies, he says, “ a lot of concerted effort is required”.

It is a very regular phenomenon though, he says, happening twice a year -- once in April-May, and once in September-October. He has been observing it for the past decade or so.

It is mainly three species which migrate: the Dark Blue Tigers, Double Branded Crows and the Common Crows. (Yes the names are quite funny, he says, like ‘Albatross’. But, he points out, it is quite difficult to find names for over 1,500 species.)

Dr Soubadra, a conservation biologist who has had a lasting fascination for butterflies, explains that the Dark Blue Tigers are far more numerous than any other, and hardier. (The ones with fewer numbers are “not so gregarious”.)

Eating tigers

In addition, she explains, Tigers have another feature that makes them particularly distasteful to predators like birds. A diet that partly consists of milkweed makes their constitution quite alkaloid. Only young birds may try a sample of Tiger butterfly, and the aftereffects -- nausea, for one -- quickly dissuade them from going in for any more.

The trip is quite an ordeal, and is fraught with danger. High rise buildings in the city, for one, mean a lot of energy expended on navigating them (“do we go around them? Above them?”). Even the Glass House in Lalbagh is a death trap. Mr Karthikeyan says that on Saturday he saw large numbers of both the migratory and resident ones lying dead, possibly because they happened to enter the place, rose up towards the light, got lost and confused, and became too tired to find their way out.


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