Monarch Butterfly Tagging Season Kicks Off Saturday
Bangalore, August 13: Nature's most colourful species in all its various hues will be soon be on display in the country's first butterflty park coming up in Bannerghatta Biological Park here. Butterflies, considered to be flagship species of lesser taxa, has remained neglected in India. "The park is the first effort of its kind to create facilities for research and education of this neglected species", he said.
The over-Rs-3 crore project, spread over 10,000 sqm, will have 50 species of butterfly, Deputy Conservator of Forests, Bannerghatta Biological Park, Markandeya said.
Butterflies, considered to be flagship species of lesser taxa, has remained neglected in India. "The park is the first effort of its kind to create facilities for research and education of this neglected species", he said.
Study of breeding of butterflies will be the prime focus of the project so that strategies can be proposed to protect several species of them from local, if not global extinction, he said.
The project will comprise three domes made out of polypropylene and supported by high quality steel and aluminium trusses. "The quality control of the entire construction has been done by Torsteel India", Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wild Life) and Chief Wild Life Warden, A K Verma said.
The first two domes will be the display area while the third will be utilised as an interpretation centre where audio visuals will be shown to the public. The project will also have a lab where butterflies will be reared, he said.
"It is these reared butterflies which will be displayed on the host plants and in open vegetation", Verma said.
"Since all the 50 varieties of butterfly cannot be bred inhouse, local farmers will be encouraged to rear and supply them to us," he said.
The park will thus not only create employment opportunities for local people for butterfly farming but also provide liaison with other intitutions and agencies interested in farmed butterflies, he said.
The project is funded by a contribution from department of Biotechnology, India, with support contribution from government of Karnataka.
University of Agricultural Sciences (UAS) Bangalore will provide the input while Ashoka Trust for Research in Environment and Ecology, a Bangalore-based NGO, will take up education and extension work, Verma added. (Agencies)
WHEN A PLAGUE of tree-climbing aphids afflicted pecan orchards in the southeastern United States in the 1970s, federal biologists released a tree-climbing ladybug from Asia to devour them. The multicolored Asian lady beetle (Harmonia axyridis) did a superb job. Unfortunately, it also revealed two unwelcome traits: the wanderlust of a hobo and the appetite of a gourmand. Swarms of the little beetles eventually marched up the Atlantic seaboard into New England and westward across the Mississippi. Along with another foreign import, the seven-spotted ladybug (Coccinella septempunctata) brought over earlier from Europe, the ravenous Asian insect has eaten so many aphids so fast that many native ladybugs may have been left with too little to eat. To make matters worse, the newcomers are apt to eat the hometown ladybugs, too. Possibly due to this onslaught, even New York’s official state insect, the nine-spotted lady beetle (Coccinella novemnotata), is now extinct in the state.
In the field of classical biological control—the use of exotic natural enemies to counter invasive pests—examples of biocontrol insects that have themselves gone out of control are relatively few. When it works, biological control is more benign, more efficient, and more precisely targeted than the usual method of controlling pest species, which is spraying their general whereabouts with toxic chemicals.
But just as an exotic plant can turn invasive when freed from the enemies that kept it in check back home, so too can an exotic biocontrol insect run amuck itself in the absence of the predators and competitors it evolved with. (The organisms used for biocontrol include not only insects but also other arthropods, viruses, fungi, bacteria, nematodes and other life-forms.) And when good bugs go bad, they can make big trouble. Whereas a chemical pesticide weakens over time, living creatures have a way of multiplying.
“With a chemical spill, you could theoretically recover all the molecules,” says entomologist May Berenbaum of the University of Illinois. “With a biological organism that reproduces, once it’s out there, it’s out there. You can’t round it up.”
The first successful U.S. deployment of a biocontrol insect occurred more than a century ago. An Australian ladybug, the vedalia beetle (Rodolia cardinalis), was released in California citrus orchards in 1888 to combat cottony cushion scale. In decimating the citrus pest and keeping it in check ever since, without collateral damage or becoming a pest itself, the beetle has performed superbly—possibly a little too superbly, suggests Erin Stephens, a Cornell University insect ecologist. “It led people to think they could use biocontrol agents as a cure-all,” she says, “when in fact they just got really, really lucky.”
BY WILL WEISSERT
August 04, 2005
But the crew won't be flying alone: Its ultra-light plane will follow millions of monarch butterflies during every part of their winter migration from the forests of eastern Canada to the central Mexican mountains.
Mexican pilot Francisco "Vico" Gutiérrez and a crew including other pilots from Canada, the United States and this country, plan to leave Quebec on Aug. 15 and follow that migration.
The route will take them to Montreal and Toronto in Canada and south across the United States with stops at Niagara Falls, New York; New York City; Washington; Lawrence, Kansas; Oklahoma City; Austin, Texas; and Eagle Pass, on the Mexican border.
The trip is scheduled to come to an end on Nov. 2, in Valle del Bravo, close to the forests where the butterflies winter in Michoacan state. It is sponsored by the World Wildlife Fund of Mexico, the government of Michoacan and Gutiérrez himself.
The annual arrival of monarch butterflies from across North America to Mexico where they winter from October to late March is an aesthetic and scientific wonder.
But illegal logging continues to thin and topple the fir forests west of Mexico City that protect butterflies from the rain and cold. Gutiérrez said he hopes the flight will raise awareness about the need to better-conserve the monarchs' fragile habitats.
Its wings painted with giant versions of the orange, black and white wings of the monarch butterfly, the aircraft is equipped with just an 80-horsepower engine.
He plans to pilot the plane about five times faster than the rate of the butterflies, but only travel the daily distances they travel.
The journey should produce a documentary, and a photographer or cameraman will accompany Gutiérrez or other pilots onboard, while the rest of the team follows along in a van.
The project is dubbed Papalotzin, a word from the ancient Nahuatl language spoken by the Aztecs which roughly translates to small butterfly. In all, Gutiérrez expects to travel 3,415 miles (5,500 kilometers), using about 205 gallons (780 liters) of gasoline along the way.
Carlos Galindo, forest director for the World Wildlife Fund in Mexico, said no one had followed the butterflies via air for all of their transcontinental journey. Doing so can teach scientists how they cope with changing wind patterns, temperature shifts and difficult weather, he said.
It is also unclear, for instance, at what altitude the butterflies cruise and why those migrating have a life span of eight months while generations that come before and after the trip live only about a month, he said.
Watching as crew members assembled the plane for journalists in a crowded but peaceful park in the capital, Gutiérrez said "I'm actually really nervous."
"No, that's not true," he was quick to add as the plane began to take shape, in a process that resembled campers erecting a tent. "I'm really content, really excited."
"The skipper lived 19 days," said Butterfly Keeper Mary Jo Andersen. "That's right along the average for the species, which is two to three weeks."
Mardon skippers have tawny orange and tan wings checkered with pale yellow or white rectangles. Individuals have a hairy, stout body, and males are slightly smaller than females. With a wingspan of no more than one inch, this butterfly of the family Hesperiidae is a pipsqueak even by butterfly standards.
The mardon skipper butterfly that emerged from its chrysalis in the zoo's butterfly lab appeared to be approximately in sync with the development of the mardon skipper population in the South Cascades of Washington State, which was the source population for this year's captive-reared skippers. This skipper came from eggs that were laid in flats of grass covered by mesh "tents." After the eggs hatched, the caterpillars were moved into jars with clumps of fescue, a tall grass upon which mardon skipper caterpillars feed. The butterfly lab's mardon skipper caterpillar spent the majority of its time in a nest it made from small bits of the fescue, coming out only to feed.